U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights

Assessing the Impact of Instrument Changes on Critical Atmospheric Measurements
Published: July 20, 2016
Posted: August 12, 2016

Measurements of temperature and humidity profiles are critical to a range of atmospheric and climate studies. ARM scientists assess the impacts of instrument changes on these measurements.

The Science
Manufacturers are continuously upgrading and updating their instrumentation. Changes in sensitivity or performance characteristics of observational instruments can have big impacts on scientific studies that use data from two different instrument versions. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility performed a careful study to assess the impacts of a new version of the radiosonde sensor, a critical instrument for measuring profiles of atmospheric temperature and humidity.

The Impact
A comparison of 20 twin-radiosonde balloon flights shows that the new (RS41) and older (RS92) radiosonde sensors generally agree within the manufactured-defined uncertainties of the instruments. Exceptions were noted after traversing liquid cloud layers where instrument wetting and evaporative cooling impacts were mitigated in the RS41. For many science applications, a switch from the RS92 to RS41 will likely have little impact.

In June 2014, 20 twin-radiosonde balloon flights were performed at the ARM Southern Great Plains site to evaluate and quantify differences in atmospheric state variable measurements from the current-generation Vaisala RS92 and next-generation RS41 radiosondes. Complementary observations from the ARM site were used to put these measurements in context, including Ka-band ARM zenith radar (KAZR) observations for documenting cloud occurrence and microwave radiometer observations for integrated water vapor. Efforts were made to sample the diurnal cycle and a variety of cloud and weather conditions. The results show small biases and root mean square differences between the radiosonde measurements over all conditions and heights. A closer examination shows that when exiting liquid cloud layers the RS41 measurements show less impact related to instrument wetting and evaporative cooling.

Contacts (BER PM)
Sally McFarlane
ARM Program Manager

(PI Contact)
Michael Jensen
Brookhaven National Laboratory

This research was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research as part of the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Climate Research Facility, a DOE user facility.

Jensen, M. P., D. J. Holdridge, P. Survo, R. Lehtinen, S. Baxter, T. Toto, and K. L. Johnson. 2016. “Comparison of Vaisala Radiosondes RS41 and RS92 at the ARM Southern Great Plains Site,” Atmospheric Measurement Techniques 9, 3115-29. DOI: 10.5194/amt-9-3115-2016. (Reference link)

Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Atmospheric System Research
  • Facility: DOE ARM User Facility

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER


BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)