The need for an absolute standard for water vapor observations, in the form of a global dataset with high accuracy and good spatial resolution, has long been recognized. The European Space Agency's Water Vapour Lidar Experiment in Space (WALES) mission aims to meet this need by providing high-quality water vapor profiles, globally and with good vertical resolution, using a differential absorption lidar (DIAL) system in a low earth-orbit satellite. WALES will be the first active system to measure humidity from space routinely. With launch envisaged in the 20082010 time frame and a minimum duration of two years, the primary mission goals are to (a) contribute to scientific research and (b) demonstrate the feasibility of longer-term operational missions. This paper assesses the benefits of the anticipated data to NWP through quantitative analysis of information content. Good vertical resolution and low random errors are shown to give substantial improvements in analysis error in one-dimensional variational data assimilation (1DVAR) comparisons with advanced infrared sounders. In addition, the vertical extent of the profiles is shown to reach 16.5 km or ~100 hPa, well above the limit of radiance assimilation (13 km or 200 hPa). Also highlighted are important applications in atmospheric sciences and climate research that would benefit from the low bias promised by spaceborne DIAL data and their complementarity to other types of humidity observations.
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society – American Meteorological Society
Published: Feb 19, 2004
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