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Rapid Retrieval and Assimilation of Ground Based GPS Precipitable Water Observations at The NOAA Forecast Systems Laboratory: Impact On Weather Forecasts


Since 1994, the NOAA Research-Forecast Systems Laboratory (NOAA/FSL) has been evaluating the utility of ground-based Global Positioning System (GPS) remote sensing techniques for operational weather forecasting, climate monitoring, atmospheric research, and other applications such as satellite calibration and validation. Techniques have been developed to acquire, process, distribute GPS integrated precipitable water vapor (IPW) retrievals and ancillary surface meteorological observations every 30-minutes with less than 15 minute latency. Techniques to assimilate these observations into the research version of the Rapid Update Cycle (RUC) numerical weather prediction assimilation/model system running hourly at NOAA/FSL have been developed, and the impacts of these observations on short-range weather forecast accuracy have been evaluated since 1998 using a 60-km version of the system. These assessments consist of data denial experiments (parallel runs with and without GPS water vapor observations) to determine the impact that GPS-derived integrated (or total column) precipitable water vapor (IPW) retrievals have on short-range moisture and precipitation forecasts. The experiments have been conducted over a portion of the central United States that, from a meteorological perspective, is one of the best-observed areas on Earth. While this greatly facilitates the impact assessments, it also presents a special challenge to a new observing system under evaluation, such as GPS-Met, since relatively few measurements have to ``compete'' with an enormous number of other (conventional and non-conventional) observations of similar and related parameters. Despite this, five years of experiments indicate more or less continuous improvements in 3-hour relative humidity forecasts at pressure levels below 500 hPa. The greatest skill is seen during the cold season when moisture changes are dominated by synoptic-scale weather systems. Perhaps the most significant result is that the impact in improved forecast skill from assimilation of GPS-IPW data has increased each year as the number of stations has increased, suggesting that further increases in the network density over the United States will result in further forecast improvement.

Article / Publication Data
Available Metadata
Fiscal Year
Publication Name
Journal of The Meteorological Society of Japan
Published On
January 01, 2004
Publisher Name
Meteorological Soc Jpn
Print Volume
Print Number


Not available


Authors who have authored or contributed to this publication.

  • Tracy L. Smith - Not Positioned Gsl
    Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University
    NOAA/Global Systems Laboratory