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Improvement in the Use of an Operational Constellation of GPS Radio Occultation Receivers in Weather Forecasting


As of May 2007, the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) implemented a new Global Data Assimilation System. This system incorporated the assimilation of global positioning system (GPS) radio occultation (RO) profiles from the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate (COSMIC) mission, which was launched in April 2006. Since then, this new type of observation has been shown to provide additional information on the thermodynamic state of the atmosphere, resulting in a significant increase in the model skill.

Recent updates of the analysis and modeling codes have required a revision of the algorithm that assimilates GPS RO data. In addition, some modifications in the processing of the observations have further enhanced the need for a revisiting of the assimilation code. Better characterizations of the quality control procedures, observation error structure, and forward modeling for the GPS RO observations are described. The updated system significantly improves the data usage, in particular in the tropics. Different sets of the atmospheric refractive indices are also evaluated in this study. The model performance is proven to be quite sensitive to the chosen coefficients and a reevaluation of these constants is recommended within the GPS community.

The new assimilation configuration results in an improvement in the anomaly correlation scores for the Southern Hemisphere extratropics (∼4.5 h for the 500-mb geopotential heights at day 7) and a reduction of the high- and low-level tropical wind errors. Overall, the benefits of using COSMIC on top of all the other observations used in the operational system are still very significant. The loss in model skill when COSMIC is removed from the observing system is remarkable at day 4 (∼8 h) and steadily increases beyond 12 h with the extended forecast range.

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