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Profiles of Radio Refractive Index and Humidity Derived From Radar Wind Profilers and The Global Positioning System


It has often been pointed out that the Bragg backscatter of radar waves from elevated turbulent layers is very highly correlated with the height gradient of radio refractive index (RI) through these layers. However, many users need the profiles of RI, or the associated humidity, rather than profiles of their gradients. Simple integration of the gradients is usually not feasible because of ground or sea clutter and because biological scatterers such as insects and birds often severely contaminate the lower range gates. We show that if the total height-integrated RI is independently available (say, from the Global Positioning System (GPS)), and if the surface value of RI isknown, the profiles of RI are retrievable with good accuracy. For those profiler systems equipped with a radio acoustic sounding system to measure temperature, the humidity is also retrievable. The method is demonstrated with data collected in southern California, where 7 hours of profiler data were recorded at 449 MHZ along with CPS data. Three radiosonde balloons were launched during the period, and the profiles of PI from the balloon and the profiler are compared. The advantages of the system are its invulnerability to nonprecipitating clouds (at frequencies of 449 MHZ or lower) and that it uses only facilities that will soon be deployed globally. Simulations are used to assess errors from various factors such as loss of sign of the gradient of the potential RI (important especially during some frontal events) and the presence of biological contaminants in some geographical areas (such as coastal zones and some agricultural areas at night).

Article / Publication Data
Available Metadata
Fiscal Year
Publication Name
Radio Science
Published On
January 01, 1999
Publisher Name
Amer Geophysical Union
Print Volume
Print Number


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