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Temperature, Humidity, and Pressure Response of Radiosondes at Low Temperatures

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • | 2 Department of Geography, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho
  • | 3 Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
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Abstract

The response of radiosondes to an instantaneous change of environment was studied by taking the instruments from a warm building into the cold environment at South Pole Station. After being initialized inside, the radiosondes were carried outside and placed on the snow surface, where they were left until they reported stable values of temperature, pressure, and relative humidity. Three models of radiosondes were tested: Vaisala RS80, Atmospheric Instrumentation Research (AIR) 4A, and AIR 5A.

The reported temperature equilibrated to the outside conditions within 30 s. However, it frequently took 30 min before the relative humidity outside was accurately reported. Additionally, the reported pressure rose by several hectopascals over a 5-min period when the sonde was taken outside. In the RS80s this bias was as large as 10 hPa, and disappeared in about 30 min. In the AIR sondes, the maximum pressure bias was never much over 2 hPa, but seemed not to diminish with time.

The RS80s were also tested to see if, once equilibrated to the outside conditions, they could respond to smaller changes that would be encountered in flight. The results in this case indicate that, with some corrections for time lag, the RS80 can provide accurate data at low temperatures if allowed to equilibrate initially.

The results of these tests together indicate that the quality of upper-air data in cold regions could be improved if radiosondes are stored and prepared at ambient temperature or are given at least 30 min to equilibrate outside after being prepared inside.

Corresponding author address: Stephen R. Hudson, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. Email: hudson@atmos.washington.edu

Abstract

The response of radiosondes to an instantaneous change of environment was studied by taking the instruments from a warm building into the cold environment at South Pole Station. After being initialized inside, the radiosondes were carried outside and placed on the snow surface, where they were left until they reported stable values of temperature, pressure, and relative humidity. Three models of radiosondes were tested: Vaisala RS80, Atmospheric Instrumentation Research (AIR) 4A, and AIR 5A.

The reported temperature equilibrated to the outside conditions within 30 s. However, it frequently took 30 min before the relative humidity outside was accurately reported. Additionally, the reported pressure rose by several hectopascals over a 5-min period when the sonde was taken outside. In the RS80s this bias was as large as 10 hPa, and disappeared in about 30 min. In the AIR sondes, the maximum pressure bias was never much over 2 hPa, but seemed not to diminish with time.

The RS80s were also tested to see if, once equilibrated to the outside conditions, they could respond to smaller changes that would be encountered in flight. The results in this case indicate that, with some corrections for time lag, the RS80 can provide accurate data at low temperatures if allowed to equilibrate initially.

The results of these tests together indicate that the quality of upper-air data in cold regions could be improved if radiosondes are stored and prepared at ambient temperature or are given at least 30 min to equilibrate outside after being prepared inside.

Corresponding author address: Stephen R. Hudson, Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington, Box 351640, Seattle, WA 98195-1640. Email: hudson@atmos.washington.edu

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