A robust and easily implemented verification procedure based on the column-integrated precipitable water (IPW) vapor estimates derived from a network of ground-based global positioning system (GPS) receivers has been used to assess the quality of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) IPW retrievals over the contiguous United States. For a period of six months from April to October 2004, excellent agreement has been realized between GPS-derived IPW estimates and those determined from AIRS, showing small monthly bias values ranging from 0.5 to 1.5 mm and root-mean-square (rms) differences of 4 mm or less. When the spatial (latitude–longitude) window for the GPS and AIRS matchup observations is reduced from the initial 1?2° by 1?2° to 1?4° by 1?4°, the rms differences are reduced. Analysis revealed that the observed IPW biases between the instruments are strongly correlated to the reported surface pressure differences between the GPS and AIRS observational points. Adjusting the AIRS IPW values to account for the surface pressure discrepancies resulted in significant reductions of the bias between GPS and AIRS. A similar reduction can be obtained by comparing only (GPS–AIRS) match-up pairs for which the corresponding surface pressure differences are 0.5 mb or less. The comparisons also revealed that the AIRS IPW tends to be relatively dry in moist atmospheres (when IPW values 40 mm) but wetter in dry cases (when IPW values 10 mm). This is consistent with the documented bias of satellite measurements toward the first guess used in retrieval algorithms. However, additional study is needed to verify whether the AIRS water vapor retrieval process is the source of the discrepancies. It is shown that the IPW bias and rms differences have a seasonal dependency, with a maximum in summer (bias 1.2 mm, rms 4.14 mm) and minimum in winter (bias 0.5 mm, rms 3 mm).
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