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Emerging technologies and synergies for airborne and space-based measurements of water vapor profiles

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10.1007_s10712-017-9448-9.pdf
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Citation

Nehrir, A. R., Kiemle, C., Lebsock, M. D., Kirchengast, G., Bühler, S. A., Loehnert, U., et al. (2017). Emerging technologies and synergies for airborne and space-based measurements of water vapor profiles. Surveys in Geophysics, 38, 1445-1482. doi:10.1007/s10712-017-9448-9.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-002E-9BC7-5
Abstract
A deeper understanding of how clouds will respond to a warming climate is one of the outstanding challenges in climate science. Uncertainties in the response of clouds, and particularly shallow clouds, have been identified as the dominant source of the discrepancy in model estimates of equilibrium climate sensitivity. As the community gains a deeper understanding of the many processes involved, there is a growing appreciation of the critical role played by fluctuations in water vapor and the coupling of water vapor and atmospheric circulations. Reduction of uncertainties in cloud-climate feedbacks and convection initiation as well as improved understanding of processes governing these effects will result from profiling of water vapor in the lower troposphere with improved accuracy and vertical resolution compared to existing airborne and space-based measurements. This paper highlights new technologies and improved measurement approaches for measuring lower tropospheric water vapor and their expected added value to current observations. Those include differential absorption lidar and radar, microwave occultation between low-Earth orbiters, and hyperspectral microwave remote sensing. Each methodology is briefly explained, and measurement capabilities as well as the current technological readiness for aircraft and satellite implementation are specified. Potential synergies between the technologies are discussed, actual examples hereof are given, and future perspectives are explored. Based on technical maturity and the foreseen near-mid-term development path of the various discussed measurement approaches, we find that improved measurements of water vapor throughout the troposphere would greatly benefit from the combination of differential absorption lidar focusing on the lower troposphere with passive remote sensors constraining the upper-tropospheric humidity.