Atmosphere and Climate

pp 205-224

Observation Operators for the Assimilation of Occultation Data Into Atmospheric Models: A Review

  • S. SyndergaardAffiliated withCOSMIC Project Office, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  • , Y.-H. KuoAffiliated withCOSMIC Project Office, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  • , M. S. LohmannAffiliated withCOSMIC Project Office, University Corporation for Atmospheric ResearchJoint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, NOAA/NESDIS

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During the past decade, researchers have been working to develop methods for the assimilation of Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation data into numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Until recently, two strategies have received the most attention: 1) assimilation of the retrieved bending angle profiles, and 2) assimilation of the retrieved refractivity profiles. The assimilation of retrieved bending angle profiles, e.g., via a ray tracing model, has the advantage that horizontal refractivity gradients, affecting the observations, can be accounted for. However, accurate computation of ray paths through a NWP model is very time consuming in an operational system, and approximations to the ray tracing have to be made. In contrast, the assimilation of retrieved refractivity profiles, interpreted as being representative of the local vertical structure in the atmosphere (also known as assimilation of local refractivity), is simple and fast, but this approach does not account for the influence of the horizontal gradients. Recently, some new observation operators have been developed which are both fast and, to a large degree, capable of taking into account the influence of the horizontal gradients. These new observation operators rely on predefined ray trajectories, and could also become useful for future assimilation of other kinds of occultation data, e.g., ionospheric GPS occultation data, absorption data from low earth orbit constellations, or data from solar/stellar occultation experiments. In this review, a brief account of past and present efforts to develop efficient observation operators for the assimilation of GPS occultation data into atmospheric models will be given, ranging from early suggestions to the recently developed observation operators.