Assimilation of GPS Radio Occultation Data for Numerical Weather Prediction


With the availability of approximately 4000 radio occultation soundings per day within three hours of observation, COSMIC has the potential to contribute significantly to global and regional weather analysis and prediction. However, the basic radio occultation measurements (phase delays) are very different from traditional meteorological measurements (i.e., temperature, water vapor), and to effectively assimilate them into weather prediction models is a challenging task. Over the past five years, considerable progress has been made in the development of an effective strategy for the assimilation of GPS radio occultation data. In this paper, we (1) review the measurement and data reduction procedures, (2) discuss the error characteristics of the GPS radio occultation data, (3) discuss the various strategies for data assimilation, (4) review results form recent data assimilation research. and (5) provide suggestions for future research.

Results from recent studies have led to the conclusion that the best strategy to assimilate GPS radio occultation data is a mixture of bending angles below 10 km and refractivity above 10 km using a variational approach. The assimilation of GPS radio occultation data is likely to have a significant positive impact on global and regional weather prediction through improved definition of water vapor, temperature and wind fields. Although refractivity and bending angles are not directly related to the winds, the assimilation ofGPS data leads to improvements in the wind analysis through internal model dynamic adjustments.

In order to make optimal use of GPS radio occultation data in weather analysis and prediction, considerable research is needed in: (1) better characterization of GPS measurement errors, particularly in the lower troposphere, (2) improving the computational efficiency and optimizing the strategy of bending angle and refractivity assimilation, and (3) performing a set of observing system simulation experiments with realistic simulation of GPS radio occultation data. These research tasks should be conducted prior to the launch of the COSMIC satellites, so that we can fully realize the potential of COSMIC data in global and regional weather prediction.

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