Observing tropospheric water vapor by radio occultation using the Global Positioning System



Given the importance of water vapor to weather, climate and hydrology, global humidity observations from satellites are critical. At low latitudes, radio occultation observations of Earth's atmosphere using the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites allow water vapor profiles to be retrieved with accuracies of 10 to 20% below 6 to 7 km altitude and ∼5% or better within the boundary layer. GPS observations provide a unique combination of accuracy, vertical resolution (≤ 1 km) and insensitivity to cloud and aerosol particles that is well suited to observations of the lower troposphere. These characteristics combined with the inherent stability of radio occultation observations make it an excellent candidate for the measurement of long term trends.