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Real-time national GPS networks for atmospheric sensing


Real-time national global positioning system (GPS) networks are being established in a number of countries for atmospheric sensing. The authors, in collaboration with participating universities, are developing one of these networks in the United States. The proposed network, named "SuomiNet" to honor meteorological satellite pioneer Verner Suomi, is funded by the US National Science Foundation to exploit the recently shown ability of ground-based GPS receivers to make thousands of accurate upper and lower atmospheric measurements per day. Phase delays induced in GPS signals by the ionosphere and neutral atmosphere can be measured with high precision simultaneously along a dozen or so GPS ray paths in the field of view. These delays can be converted into integrated water-vapor (if surface pressure data or estimates are available) and total electron content (TEC), along each GPS ray path. The resulting continuous, accurate, all-weather, real-time GPS moisture data will help advance university research in mesoscale modeling and data assimilation, severe weather, precipitation, cloud dynamics, regional climate and hydrology. Similarly, continuous, accurate, all-weather, real-time TEC data have applications in modeling and prediction of severe terrestrial and space weather, detection and forecasting of low-latitude ionospheric scintillation activity and geomagnetic storm effects at ionospheric mid-latitudes, and detection of ionospheric effects induced by a variety of geophysical events. SuomiNet data also have potential applications in coastal meteorology, providing ground truth for satellite radiometry, correction of synthetic aperture radar data for crustal deformation and topography studies, and detection of scintillation associated with atmospheric turbulence in the lower troposphere. In this paper we describe SuomiNet, its applications, and the larger opportunity to coordinate national real-time GPS networks to maximize their scientific and operational impact. © 2001 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.

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