Synoptic-wale thermodynamic fields in the environment of Hurricane Debby (1982) determined from two sets of VAS soundings (VAS1, VAS2) are compared with those obtained from in-situ data (INS). VAS1 sounding were derived from an iterative solution of the radiative transfer equation with manual quality control. VAS2 soundings, which represent the present state-of-the-art, were derived from a simultaneous solution of the transfer equation with objective quality control. In situ data were obtained primarily from Omega dropwindsondes. Comparisons are made for 0000 UTC 16 September 1982 at the mandatory pressure levels up to 400 mb. The integrated effect of VAS-INS differences is estimated by comparing 400 mb geopotential height fields and their associated gradient winds.
The comparisons show that the VAS1-INS temperature differences are not spatially uniform at most levels, due largely to the influence of moisture. The quality of the VAS2 data is much improved over VAS1; the effect of moisture is not noticeable. However, the VAS2 analyses still show spatially nonuniform differences from INS at some levels. Thus, VAS gradient data may be of irregular quality on the synoptic scale. Geopotential height fields at 400 mb imply gradient wind differences from INS of up to 12 m s−1 for VAS 1 and 6 m s−1 for VAS2. The VAS2 sounding set could be improved further by the use of manual data editing, and a more accurate first-guess of the surface temperature analysis.