Comparisons of refractive index gradient and stability profiles measured by balloons and the MU radar at a high vertical resolution in the lower stratosphere
Abstract. Many experimental studies have demonstrated that VHF Stratosphere-Troposphere (ST) radar echo power is proportional to the generalized refractive index gradient squared M2 when using a vertically oriented beam. Because humidity is generally negligible above the tropopause, VHF ST radars can thus provide information on the static stability (quantified by the squared Brunt-Väisälä frequency N2) at stratospheric heights and this capability is useful for many scientific applications. Most studies have been performed until now at a vertical resolution of 150 m or more. In the present paper, results of comparisons between radar- and (balloon borne) radiosonde-derived M2 and N2 are shown at a better vertical resolution of 50 m with the MU radar (34.85° N, 136.15° E; Japan) by benefiting from the range resolution improvement provided by the multi-frequency range imaging technique, using the Capon processing method. Owing to favorable winds in the troposphere, the radiosondes did not drift horizontally more than about 30 km from the MU radar site by the time they reached an altitude of 20 km. The measurements were thus simultaneous and almost collocated. Very good agreements have been obtained between both high resolution profiles of M2, as well as profiles of N2. It is also shown that this agreement can still be improved by taking into account a frozen-in advection of the air parcels by a horizontally uniform wind. Therefore, it can be concluded that 1) the range imaging technique with the Capon method really provides substantial range resolution improvement, despite the relatively weak Signal-to-Noise Ratios (SNR) over the analyzed region of the lower stratosphere, 2) the proportionality of the radar echo power to M2 at a vertical scale down to 50 m in the lower stratosphere is experimentally demonstrated, 3) the MU radar can provide stability profiles with a vertical resolution of 50 m at heights where humidity is negligible, 4) stable stratospheric layers as thin as 50 m or less have at least a horizontal extent of a few km to several tens of kilometers and can be considered as frozenly advected over scales of a few tens of minutes.