Microwave Temperature Profiler (MTP)


Operated By: 

The Microwave Temperature Profiler (MTP) is a passive microwave radiometer, which measures the natural thermal emission from oxygen molecules in the earth’s atmosphere for a selection of elevation angles between zenith and nadir. The current observing frequencies are 55.51, 56.65 and 58.80 GHz. The measured "brightness temperatures" versus elevation angle are converted to air temperature versus altitude using a quasi-Bayesian statistical retrieval procedure. The MTP has no ITAR restrictions, has export compliance classification number EAR99/NLR. An MTP generally consists of two assemblies: a sensor unit (SU), which receives and detects the signal, and a data unit (DU), which controls the SU and records the data. In addition, on some platforms there may be a third element, a real-time analysis computer (RAC), which analyzes the data to produce temperature profiles and other data products in real time. The SU is connected to the DU with power, control, and data cables. In addition the DU has interfaces to the aircraft navigation data bus and the RAC, if one is present. Navigation data is needed so that information such as altitude, pitch and roll are available. Aircraft altitude is needed to perform retrievals (which are altitude dependent), while pitch and roll are needed for controlling the position of a stepper motor which must drive a scanning mirror to predetermined elevation angles. Generally, the feed horn is nearly normal to the flight direction and the scanning mirror is oriented at 45-degrees with respect to receiving feed horn to allow viewing from near nadir to near zenith. At each viewing position a local oscillator (LO) is sequenced through two or more frequencies. Since a double sideband receiver is used, the LO is generally located near the "valley" between two spectral lines, so that the upper and lower sidebands are located near the spectral line peaks to ensure the maximum absorption. This is especially important at high altitudes where "transparency" corrections become important if the lines are too "thin." Because each frequency has a different effective viewing distance, the MTP is able to "see" to different distances by changing frequency. In addition, because the viewing direction is also varied and because the atmospheric opacity is temperature and pressure dependent, different effective viewing distances are also achieved through scanning in elevation . If the scanning is done so that the applicable altitudes (that is, the effective viewing distance times the sine of the elevation angle) at different frequencies and elevation angles are the same, then inter-frequency calibration can also be done, which improves the quality of the retrieved profiles. For a two-frequency radiometer with 10 elevation angles, each 15-second observing cycle produces a set of 20 brightness temperatures, which are converted by a linear retrieval algorithm to a profile of air temperature versus altitude, T(z). Finally, radiometric calibration is performed using the outside air temperature (OAT) and a heated reference target to determine the instrument gain. However, complete calibration of the system to include "window corrections" and other effects, requires tedious analysis and comparison with radiosondes near the aircraft flight path. This is probably the most important single factor contributing to reliable calibration. For stable MTPs, like that on the DC8, such calibrations appear to be reliable for many years. Such analysis is always performed before MTP data are placed on mission archive computers.

Instrument Type: 
DC-8 - AFRC, ER-2 - AFRC, Global Hawk - AFRC, L-188C, M-55, Gulfstream V - NSF, WB-57 - JSC
Point(s) of Contact: 
Boon Lim (PI), Richard Denning (POC; Mgr), M.J. Mahoney (PI), Bruce Gary (Prev PI)