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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2018-95
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2018-95
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  15 Oct 2018

15 Oct 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD).

Completeness of radiosonde humidity observations based on the IGRA

António P. Ferreira, Raquel Nieto, and Luis Gimeno António P. Ferreira et al.
  • Environmental Physics Laboratory (EPhysLab), Faculty of Science, University of Vigo, Ourense, 32004, Spain

Abstract. Radiosonde measurements from the 1930s to present give unique information on the distribution and variability of water vapor in the troposphere. The sounding data compiled in the Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive (IGRA) Version 2 (released by the NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information) are examined here until the end of 2016, aiming to describe the completeness of humidity observations from radiosondes in different times and locations. The IGRA stations reporting radiosonde data in at least 5% of the annual soundings for at least one year are evaluated according to specified completeness parameters for every year in their period of record. The selection of source data essentially removes pilot-balloon sites, retaining a set of 1723 stations (designated IGRA-RS), including 1300 WMO upper-air stations, of which 178 belong to the current GUAN network. Completeness of humidity observations (either relative humidity or dewpoint-depression) for a radiosonde station and a full year is defined by: the number of humidity soundings; the fraction of days having humidity data; the mean vertical resolution of humidity data; the mean atmospheric pressure and altitude at the highest measuring level; and the maximum number of consecutive days without humidity data. The completeness of the observations qualified for calculating precipitable water vapor – i.e., having adequate vertical sampling between the surface and 500hPa – is particularly studied. Individual soundings are described by the (vertically averaged) vertical resolution and the pressure level and altitude of the top of humidity measurements. For illustration, the study presents a global picture of the completeness of radiosonde humidity observations over the years, including their latitudinal coverage. This overview shows that the number of radiosonde stations having a long enough record length for studies on the climatic variability and trends of humidity-related quantities depends critically on the temporal continuity, regularity and vertical sampling of the humidity time-series. It is hoped that the derived metadata will help climate and environmental scientists to find the most appropriate radiosonde data for humidity studies by selecting upper-air stations, observing years or individual soundings according to various completeness criteria – even if differences in instrumentation and observing practices require extra attention. A dataset is presented for that purpose, consisting of two main sub-sets: 1) humidity metadata for each of the IGRA-RS stations and year within the period of record (yearly metadata); and 2) humidity metadata for individual observations from the same stations (ascent metadata). These are complemented by 3) a list of the stations represented in the dataset, along with the observing periods for humidity and the corresponding counts of observations. The dataset is to be updated on a two-year basis, starting in 2019, and is available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1332686.

António P. Ferreira et al.
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António P. Ferreira et al.
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A dataset of completeness of radiosonde humidity observations based on the IGRA A. P. Ferreira, R. Nieto, and L. Gimeno https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1332686

António P. Ferreira et al.
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Short summary
We examine the completeness of humidity observations from the balloon data of the Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive (IGRA v2) until 2016 and present a related metadata set. The work shows that the potential use of radiosonde humidity data for climate studies depends on the continuity, regularity and vertical sampling of long time series. It is hoped that the new metadata will help climate and environmental scientists to find the most complete in-situ observations meeting their research needs.
We examine the completeness of humidity observations from the balloon data of the Integrated...
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