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The Arm Program's Water Vapor Intensive Observation Periods

Overview, Initial Accomplishments, and Future Challenges

H. E. Revercomb, D. D. Turner, D. C. Tobin, R. O. Knuteson, W. F. Feltz, J. Barnard, J. Bösenberg, S. Clough, D. Cook, R. Ferrare, J. Goldsmith, S. Gutman, R. Halthore, B. Lesht, J. Liljegren, H. Linné, J. Michalsky, V. Morris, W. Porch, S. Richardson, B. Schmid, M. Splitt, T. Van Hove, E. Westwater, and D. Whiteman

A series of water vapor intensive observation periods (WVIOPs) were conducted at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) site in Oklahoma between 1996 and 2000. The goals of these WVIOPs are to characterize the accuracy of the operational water vapor observations and to develop techniques to improve the accuracy of these measurements.

The initial focus of these experiments was on the lower atmosphere, for which the goal is an absolute accuracy of better than 2% in total column water vapor, corresponding to ~1 W m−2 of infrared radiation at the surface. To complement the operational water vapor instruments during the WVIOPs, additional instrumentation including a scanning Raman lidar, microwave radiometers, chilled-mirror hygrometers, a differential absorption lidar, and ground-based solar radiometers were deployed at the ARM site. The unique datasets from the 1996, 1997, and 1999 experiments have led to many results, including the discovery and characterization of a large (> 25%) sonde-to-sonde variability in the water vapor profiles from Vaisala RS-80H radiosondes that acts like a height-independent calibration factor error. However, the microwave observations provide a stable reference that can be used to remove a large part of the sonde-to-sonde calibration variability. In situ capacitive water vapor sensors demonstrated agreement within 2% of chilled-mirror hygrometers at the surface and on an instrumented tower. Water vapor profiles retrieved from two Raman lidars, which have both been calibrated to the ARM microwave radiometer, showed agreement to within 5% for all altitudes below 8 km during two WVIOPs. The mean agreement of the total precipitable water vapor from different techniques has converged significantly from early analysis that originally showed differences up to 15%. Retrievals of total precipitable water vapor (PWV) from the ARM microwave radiometer are now found to be only 3% moister than PWV derived from new GPS results, and about 2% drier than the mean of radiosonde data after a recently defined sonde dry-bias correction is applied. Raman lidar profiles calibrated using tower-mounted chilled-mirror hygrometers confirm the expected sensitivity of microwave radiometer data to water vapor changes, but it is drier than the microwave radiometer (MWR) by 0.95 mm for all PWV amounts. However, observations from different collocated microwave radiometers have shown larger differences than expected and attempts to resolve the remaining inconsistencies (in both calibration and forward modeling) are continuing.

The paper concludes by outlining the objectives of the recent 2000 WVIOP and the ARM–First International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) Regional Experiment (FIRE) Water Vapor Experiment (AFWEX), the latter of which switched the focus to characterizing upper-tropospheric humidity measurements.

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R. A. Peppler, C. P. Bahrmann, J. C. Barnard, J. R. Campbell, M.-D. Cheng, R. A. Ferrare, R. N. Halthore, L. A. HeiIman, D. L. Hlavka, N. S. Laulainen, C.-J. Lin, J. A. Ogren, M. R. Poellot, L. A. Remer, K. Sassen, J. D. Spinhirne, M. E. Splitt, and D. D. Turner

Drought-stricken areas of Central America and Mexico were victimized in 1998 by forest and brush fires that burned out of control during much of the first half of the year. Wind currents at various times during the episode helped transport smoke from these fires over the Gulf of Mexico and into portions of the United States. Visibilities were greatly reduced during favorable flow periods from New Mexico to south Florida and northward to Wisconsin as a result of this smoke and haze. In response to the reduced visibilities and increased pollutants, public health advisories and information statements were issued by various agencies in Gulf Coast states and in Oklahoma.

This event was also detected by a unique array of instrumentation deployed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) program Southern Great Plains Cloud and Radiation Testbed and by sensors of the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality/Air Quality Division. Observations from these measurement devices suggest elevated levels of aerosol loading and ozone concentrations during May 1998 when prevailing winds were favorable for the transport of the Central American smoke pall into Oklahoma and Kansas. In particular, aerosol extinction profiles derived from the ARM Raman lidar measurements revealed large variations in the vertical distribution of the smoke.

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