Applied Physics B

, Volume 110, Issue 2, pp 249-262

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Validation of an extractive, airborne, compact TDL spectrometer for atmospheric humidity sensing by blind intercomparison

  • B. BuchholzAffiliated withCenter of Smart Interfaces (CSI), Technische Universität DarmstadtPhysikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)
  • , B. KühnreichAffiliated withCenter of Smart Interfaces (CSI), Technische Universität Darmstadt
  • , H. G. J. SmitAffiliated withInstitute of Energy and Climate Research IEK-8: Troposphere, Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH
  • , V. EbertAffiliated withCenter of Smart Interfaces (CSI), Technische Universität DarmstadtPhysikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) Email author 


Accuracy, precision, repeatability and long-term stability, are the most important requirements to enable reliable airborne humidity measurements, which are needed for climate models or to validate e.g. remote sensing instrumentation like satellites. However, various hygrometer artifacts which depend on the individual sensor principle and the application profile frequently cause problems and significantly complicate the hygrometer choice. Sensor intercomparisons are one way of providing the information for an optimal choice.

In this paper we present the first part of a blind, static, laboratory-based intercomparison of a new, calibration-free, 1.4 μm diode laser-based, optical hygrometer (SEALDH) with the two most important measurement principles for airborne hygrometry (frost-point hygrometers, FPH, and Lyman-alpha fluorescence hygrometers, LAFH). During three days of measurement, the TDL-hygrometer achieved a H2O resolution of up to 0.5 ppmv (Δt=2 sec) at tropospheric pressure and H2O concentration levels (100–800 hPa, 10 to 8000 ppmv H2O). Its absolute accuracy was investigated via blind intercomparison with two reference FPHs and a LAFH. Without any calibration of SEALDH, i.e. without a comparison to a water vapor standard, we achieve an excellent agreement with the reference sensors, with an average systematic offset (over all three days) of −3.9 %±1.5 %, which is fully consistent with the sensor’s uncertainty bounds.

Further we also reevaluated the SEALDH data of day 2 and 3 in a calibrated mode using an independent set of FPH data from the first day and found an 8-fold accuracy improvement, yielding an excellent overall relative deviation of only 0.52 %±1.5 % with respect to a LAFH and a D/FH sensor.