Journal of Geodesy

, Volume 89, Issue 9, pp 843–856 | Cite as

Real-time retrieval of precipitable water vapor from GPS and BeiDou observations

  • Cuixian Lu
  • Xingxing LiEmail author
  • Tobias Nilsson
  • Tong Ning
  • Robert Heinkelmann
  • Maorong Ge
  • Susanne Glaser
  • Harald Schuh
Original Article


The rapid development of the Chinese BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) brings a promising prospect for the real-time retrieval of zenith tropospheric delays (ZTD) and precipitable water vapor (PWV), which is of great benefit for supporting the time-critical meteorological applications such as nowcasting or severe weather event monitoring. In this study, we develop a real-time ZTD/PWV processing method based on Global Positioning System (GPS) and BDS observations. The performance of ZTD and PWV derived from BDS observations using real-time precise point positioning (PPP) technique is carefully investigated. The contribution of combining BDS and GPS for ZTD/PWV retrieving is evaluated as well. GPS and BDS observations of a half-year period for 40 globally distributed stations from the International GNSS Service Multi-GNSS Experiment and BeiDou Experiment Tracking Network are processed. The results show that the real-time BDS-only ZTD series agree well with the GPS-only ZTD series in general: the RMS values are about 11–16 mm (about 2–3 mm in PWV). Furthermore, the real-time ZTD derived from GPS-only, BDS-only, and GPS/BDS combined solutions are compared with those derived from the Very Long Baseline Interferometry. The comparisons show that the BDS can contribute to real-time meteorological applications, slightly less accurately than GPS. More accurate and reliable water vapor estimates, about 1.3–1.8 mm in PWV, can be obtained if the BDS observations are combined with the GPS observations in the real-time PPP data processing. The PWV comparisons with radiosondes further confirm the performance of BDS-derived real-time PWV and the benefit of adding BDS to standard GPS processing.


BeiDou GPS Precipitable water vapor Tropospheric delay Real-time precise point positioning VLBI Radiosonde 



We acknowledge IGS, MGEX, and BETN for providing the GPS and BDS data and IVS for providing the VLBI data. We also thank NOAA for the online provision of radiosonde data. One of the authors (C. Lu) is supported by the China Scholarship Council, which is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cuixian Lu
    • 1
  • Xingxing Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tobias Nilsson
    • 1
  • Tong Ning
    • 1
  • Robert Heinkelmann
    • 1
  • Maorong Ge
    • 1
  • Susanne Glaser
    • 2
  • Harald Schuh
    • 1
  1. 1.German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Technische Universitaet BerlinBerlinGermany

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