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Simon D. P. Williams, Paul S. Bell, David L. McCann, Richard Cooke, and Christine Sams


A low-cost [$30 (U.S. dollars)] consumer grade GPS receiver with a sideways-mounted antenna has been applied to measure tidal water levels at a mesotidal coastal site using an interferometric reflectometry approach. The proof-of-concept system was installed approximately 16 m above mean sea level in close proximity to a conventional bubbler tide gauge that provided validation data. The received signal-to-noise ratios (SNR) for the satellites in view were recorded for several months during two successive years and the observed frequencies of the interferometric oscillations used to calculate the difference in elevation between the receiver and the water surface. Comparisons with concurrent and historic in situ tide gauge data at the site initially helped to identify a calibration issue with the in situ gauge. The GPS-based measurements were shown to be in excellent agreement with the corrected in situ gauge, exhibiting a root-mean-square difference of 5.7 cm over a tidal range exceeding 3 m at spring tides and a daily averaged RMS of 1.7 cm. The SNR data from the low-cost GPS receivers are shown to provide significantly higher-quality data for this purpose compared with high-end geodetic grade receivers at similar sites. This low-cost, widely available technology has the potential to be applied globally for monitoring water levels in a wide variety of circumstances and applications that would otherwise be cost or situation prohibitive. It could also be applied as an independent cross check and quality control measure for conventional water-level gauges.

Open access
Vanessa Caicedo, Ruben Delgado, Ricardo Sakai, Travis Knepp, David Williams, Kevin Cavender, Barry Lefer, and James Szykman


A unique automated planetary boundary layer (PBL) retrieval algorithm is proposed as a common cross-platform method for use with commercially available ceilometers for implementation under the redesigned U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Photochemical Assessment Monitoring Stations program. This algorithm addresses instrument signal quality and screens for precipitation and cloud layers before the implementation of the retrieval method using the Haar wavelet covariance transform. Layer attribution for the PBL height is supported with the use of continuation and time-tracking parameters, and uncertainties are calculated for individual PBL height retrievals. Commercial ceilometer retrievals are tested against radiosonde PBL height and cloud-base height during morning and late-afternoon transition times, critical to air quality model prediction and when retrieval algorithms struggle to identify PBL heights. A total of 58 radiosonde profiles were used, and retrievals for nocturnal stable layers, residual layers, and mixing layers were assessed. Overall good agreement was found for all comparisons, with one system showing limitations for the cases of nighttime surface stable layers and daytime mixing layer. It is recommended that nighttime shallow stable-layer retrievals be performed with a recommended minimum height or with additional verification. Retrievals of residual-layer heights and mixing-layer comparisons revealed overall good correlations with radiosonde heights (square of correlation coefficients r 2 ranging from 0.89 to 0.96, and bias ranging from approximately −131 to +63 m for the residual layer and r 2 from 0.88 to 0.97 and bias from −119 to +101 m for the mixing layer).

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Anthony C. Riddle, Leslie M. Hartten, David A. Carter, Paul E. Johnston, and Christopher R. Williams


One limiting factor in atmospheric radar observations is the inability to distinguish the often weak atmospheric signals from fluctuations of the noise. This study presents a minimum threshold of usability, SNRmin, for signal-to-noise ratios obtained from wind profiling radars. The basic form arises from theoretical considerations of radar noise; the final form includes empirical modifications based on radar observations. While SNRmin was originally developed using data from the 50-MHz profiler at Poker Flat, Alaska, it works well with data collected from a wide range of locations, frequencies, and parameter settings. It provides an objective criterion to accept or reject individual spectra, can be quickly applied to a large quantity of data, and has a false-alarm rate of approximately 0.1%. While this threshold’s form depends on the methods used to calculate SNR and spectral moments, variations of the threshold could be developed for use with data processed by other methods.

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Kenneth S. Gage, Christopher R. Williams, Wallace L. Clark, Paul E. Johnston, and David A. Carter


Doppler radar profilers are widely used for routine measurement of wind, especially in the lower troposphere. The same profilers with minor modifications are useful tools for precipitation research. Specifically, the profilers are now increasingly being used to explore the structure of precipitating cloud systems and to provide calibration and validation of other instruments used in precipitation research, including scanning radars and active and passive satellite-borne sensors. A vertically directed profiler is capable of resolving the vertical structure of precipitating cloud systems that pass overhead. Standard profiler measurements include reflectivity, reflectivity-weighted Doppler velocity, and spectral width. This paper presents profiler observations of precipitating cloud systems observed during Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Ground Validation field campaigns. The observations show similarities and differences between convective systems observed in Florida; Brazil; and Kwajalein, Republic of the Marshall Islands. In addition, it is shown how a profiler can be calibrated using a collocated Joss–Waldvogel disdrometer, how the profiler can then be used to calibrate a scanning radar, and how the profiler may be used to retrieve drop size distributions.

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