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On the Performance of Airborne Meteorological Observations against Other In Situ Measurements

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  • 1 a Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
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Abstract

Routine in situ observations of the atmosphere taken in flight by commercial aircraft provide atmospheric profiles with greater temporal density and, in many parts of the country, at more locations than the operational radiosonde network. Thousands of daily temperature and wind observations are provided by largely complementary systems, the Airborne Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) and the Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting (TAMDAR). All TAMDAR aircraft also measure relative humidity while a subset of AMDAR aircraft are equipped with the Water Vapor Sensing System (WVSS) measure specific humidity. One year of AMDAR/WVSS and TAMDAR observations are evaluated against operational National Weather Service (NWS) radiosondes to characterize the performance of these systems in similar environments. For all observed variables, AMDAR reports showed both smaller average differences and less random differences with respect to radiosondes than the corresponding TAMDAR observations. Observed differences were not necessarily consistent with known radiosonde biases. Since the systems measure different humidity variables, moisture is evaluated in both specific and relative humidity using both aircraft and radiosonde temperatures to derive corresponding moisture variables. Derived moisture performance is improved when aircraft-based temperatures are corrected prior to conversion. AMDAR observations also show greater consistency between different aircraft than TAMDAR observations do. The small variability in coincident WVSS humidity observations indicates that they may prove more reliable than humidity observations from NWS radiosondes.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Timothy J. Wagner, tim.wagner@ssec.wisc.edu

Abstract

Routine in situ observations of the atmosphere taken in flight by commercial aircraft provide atmospheric profiles with greater temporal density and, in many parts of the country, at more locations than the operational radiosonde network. Thousands of daily temperature and wind observations are provided by largely complementary systems, the Airborne Meteorological Data Relay (AMDAR) and the Tropospheric Airborne Meteorological Data Reporting (TAMDAR). All TAMDAR aircraft also measure relative humidity while a subset of AMDAR aircraft are equipped with the Water Vapor Sensing System (WVSS) measure specific humidity. One year of AMDAR/WVSS and TAMDAR observations are evaluated against operational National Weather Service (NWS) radiosondes to characterize the performance of these systems in similar environments. For all observed variables, AMDAR reports showed both smaller average differences and less random differences with respect to radiosondes than the corresponding TAMDAR observations. Observed differences were not necessarily consistent with known radiosonde biases. Since the systems measure different humidity variables, moisture is evaluated in both specific and relative humidity using both aircraft and radiosonde temperatures to derive corresponding moisture variables. Derived moisture performance is improved when aircraft-based temperatures are corrected prior to conversion. AMDAR observations also show greater consistency between different aircraft than TAMDAR observations do. The small variability in coincident WVSS humidity observations indicates that they may prove more reliable than humidity observations from NWS radiosondes.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Timothy J. Wagner, tim.wagner@ssec.wisc.edu
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