Thirteen years of integrated precipitable water derived by GPS at Mario Zucchelli Station, Antarctica

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Pierguido Sarti
Monia Negusini
Claudio Tomasi
Boyan H. Petkov
Alessandro Capra


Since 1998, the Italian Antarctic Programme has been funding space geodetic activities based on the use of episodic and permanent global positioning system (GPS) observations. As well as their exploitation in geodynamics, these data can be used to sense the atmosphere and to retrieve and monitor its water vapor content and variations. The surface pressure p and temperature Ts at the GPS tracking sites are necessary to compute the zenith hydrostatic delay (ZHD), and consequently, the precipitable water. At sites where no surface information is recorded, the p and Ts values can be retrieved from, e.g., global numerical weather prediction models. Alternatively, the site-specific ZHD values can be computed by interpolation of the ZHD values provided in a grid model (2.5° × 2.0°). We have processed the data series of the permanent GPS site TNB1 (Mario Zucchelli Station, Antarctica) from 1998 to 2010, with the purpose of comparing the use of grid ZHD values as an alternative to the use of real surface records. With these approaches, we estimate almost 7 × 104 hourly values of precipitable water over 13 years, and we find discrepancies that vary between 1.8 (±0.2) mm in summer and 3.3 (±0.5) mm in winter. In addition, the discrepancies of the two solutions show a clear seasonal dependency. Radiosounding measurements were used to derive an independent series of precipitable water. These agree better with the GPS precipitable water derived from real surface data. However, the GPS precipitable water time series is dry biased, as it is ca. 77% of the total moisture measured by the radiosoundings. Both the GPS and radiosounding observations are processed through the most up-to-date strategies, to reduce known systematic errors.

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Sarti, P., Negusini, M., Tomasi, C., Petkov, B. H. and Capra, A. (2013) “Thirteen years of integrated precipitable water derived by GPS at Mario Zucchelli Station, Antarctica”, Annals of Geophysics, 56(2), p. R0221. doi: 10.4401/ag-6228.