Selected Article


The power of vertical geolocation of atmospheric profiles from GNSS radio occultation


Abstract High‐resolution measurements from Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) radio occultation (RO) provide atmospheric profiles with independent information on altitude and pressure. This unique property is of crucial advantage when analyzing atmospheric characteristics that require joint knowledge of altitude and pressure or other thermodynamic atmospheric variables. Here we introduce and demonstrate the utility of this independent information from RO and discuss the computation, uncertainty, and use of RO atmospheric profiles on isohypsic coordinates—mean sea level altitude and geopotential height—as well as on thermodynamic coordinates (pressure and potential temperature). Using geopotential height as vertical grid, we give information on errors of RO‐derived temperature, pressure, and potential temperature profiles and provide an empirical error model which accounts for seasonal and latitudinal variations. The observational uncertainty of individual temperature/pressure/potential temperature profiles is about 0.7 K/0.15%/1.4 K in the tropopause region. It gradually increases into the stratosphere and decreases toward the lower troposphere. This decrease is due to the increasing influence of background information. The total climatological error of mean atmospheric fields is, in general, dominated by the systematic error component. We use sampling error‐corrected climatological fields to demonstrate the power of having different and accurate vertical coordinates available. As examples we analyze characteristics of the location of the tropopause for geopotential height, pressure, and potential temperature coordinates as well as seasonal variations of the midlatitude jet stream core. This highlights the broad applicability of RO and the utility of its versatile vertical geolocation for investigating the vertical structure of the troposphere and stratosphere.