GNSS remote sensing of the Australian tropopause
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- Khandu, Awange, J.L., Wickert, J. et al. Climatic Change (2011) 105: 597. doi:10.1007/s10584-010-9894-6
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Radio occultation (RO) techniques that use signals transmitted by Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) have emerged over the past decade as an important tool for measuring global changes in tropopause temperature and height, a valuable capacity given the tropopause’s sensitivity to temperature variations. This study uses 45,091 RO data from the CHAMP (CHAllenging Minisatellite Payload, 80 months), GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment, 23 months) and COSMIC (Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate, 20 months) satellites to analyse the variability of the tropopause’s height and temperature over Australia. GNSS RO temperature profiles from CHAMP, GRACE, and COSMIC are first validated using radiosonde observations provided by the Bureau of Meteorology (Australia). These are compared to RO soundings from between 2001 and 2007 that occurred within 3 h and 100 km of a radiosonde. The results indicate that RO soundings provide data of a comparable quality to radiosonde observations in the tropopause region, with temperature deviations of less than 0.5 ± 1.5 K. An analysis of tropopause height and temperature anomalies indicates a height increase over Australia as a whole of ca. 4.8 ± 1.3 m between September 2001 and April 2008, with a corresponding temperature decrease of −0.019 ± 0.007 K. A similar pattern of increasing height/decreasing temperature was generally observed when determining the spatial distribution of the tropopause height and temperature rate of change over Australia. Although only a short period has been considered in this study, a function of the operating time of these satellites, the results nonetheless show an increase in the height of the tropopause over Australia during this period and thus may indicate regional warming. Several mechanisms could be responsible for these changes, such as an increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and lower stratospheric cooling due to ozone loss, both of which have been observed during the last decades.