Calibration and Quality Assurance of Flux Observations from a Small Research Aircraft

Olaf S. Vellinga Earth System Science Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, Netherlands

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Ronald J. Dobosy Air Resources Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

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Edward J. Dumas Air Resources Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

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Beniamino Gioli Institute of Biometeorology, National Research Council, Firenze, Italy

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Jan A. Elbers Alterra, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, Netherlands

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Ronald W. A. Hutjes Earth System Science Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, Wageningen, Netherlands

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Abstract

Small environmental research aircraft (ERA) are becoming more common for detailed studies of air–surface interactions. The Sky Arrow 650 ERA, used by multiple groups, is designed to minimize the complexity of high-precision airborne turbulent wind measurement. Its relative wind probe, of a nine-port design, is furthermore used with several other airplanes. This paper gives an overview of 1) calibration of the model that converts the probe’s raw measurements to meteorological quantities; 2) quality control and assurance (QC–QA) in postprocessing of these quantities to compute fluxes; and 3) sensitivity of fluxes to errors in calibration parameters. The model, an adapted version of standard models of potential flow and aerodynamic upwash, is calibrated using an integrated method to derive a globally optimum set of parameters from in-flight maneuvers. Methods of QC–QA from the tower flux community are adopted for use with airborne flux data to provide more objective selection criteria for large datasets. Last, measurements taken from a standard operational flight are used to show fluxes to be most sensitive to calibration parameters that directly affect the vertical wind component. In another test with the same data, varying all calibration parameters simultaneously by ±10% of their optimum values, the model computes a response in the fluxes smaller than 10%, though a larger response may occur if only a subset of parameters is perturbed. A MATLAB toolbox has been developed that facilitates the procedures presented here.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JTECH-D-11-00138.s1.

Corresponding author address: O. S. Vellinga, Earth System Science Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, Netherlands. E-mail: olaf.vellinga@wur.nl

Abstract

Small environmental research aircraft (ERA) are becoming more common for detailed studies of air–surface interactions. The Sky Arrow 650 ERA, used by multiple groups, is designed to minimize the complexity of high-precision airborne turbulent wind measurement. Its relative wind probe, of a nine-port design, is furthermore used with several other airplanes. This paper gives an overview of 1) calibration of the model that converts the probe’s raw measurements to meteorological quantities; 2) quality control and assurance (QC–QA) in postprocessing of these quantities to compute fluxes; and 3) sensitivity of fluxes to errors in calibration parameters. The model, an adapted version of standard models of potential flow and aerodynamic upwash, is calibrated using an integrated method to derive a globally optimum set of parameters from in-flight maneuvers. Methods of QC–QA from the tower flux community are adopted for use with airborne flux data to provide more objective selection criteria for large datasets. Last, measurements taken from a standard operational flight are used to show fluxes to be most sensitive to calibration parameters that directly affect the vertical wind component. In another test with the same data, varying all calibration parameters simultaneously by ±10% of their optimum values, the model computes a response in the fluxes smaller than 10%, though a larger response may occur if only a subset of parameters is perturbed. A MATLAB toolbox has been developed that facilitates the procedures presented here.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JTECH-D-11-00138.s1.

Corresponding author address: O. S. Vellinga, Earth System Science Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, Netherlands. E-mail: olaf.vellinga@wur.nl
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