Validation of ionospheric electron density profiles inferred from GPS occulation observations of the GPS/MET experiment
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In April of 1995, the launch of the GPS Meteorology Experiment (GPS/MET) onboard the Orbview-1 satellite, formerly known as Microlab1, provided the first technology demonstration of active limb sounding of the Earth’s atmosphere with a low Earth orbiting spacecraft utilizing the signals transmitted by the satellites of the Global Positioning System (GPS). Though the experiment’s primary mission was to probe the troposphere and stratosphere, GPS/MET was also capable of making radio occultation observations of the ionosphere. The application of the GPS occultation technique to the upper atmosphere created a unique opportunity to conduct ionospheric research with an unprecedented global viii distribution of observations. For operational support requirements, the Abel transform could be employed to invert the horizontal TEC profiles computed from the L1 and L2 phase measurements observed by GPS/MET into electron density profiles versus altitude in near real time. The usefulness of the method depends on how effectively the TEC limb profiles can be transformed into vertical electron density profiles. An assessment of GPS/MET’s ability to determine electron density profiles needs to be examined to validate the significance of the GPS occultation method as a new and complementary ionospheric research tool to enhance the observational databases and improve space weather modeling and forecasting. To that end, simulations of the occultation observations and their inversions have been conducted to test the Abel transform algorithm and to provide qualitative information about the type and range of errors that might be experienced during the processing of real data. Comparisons of the electron density profiles inferred from real GPS/MET observations are then compared with coincident in situ measurements from the satellites of the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) and ground-based remote sensing from digisonde and incoherent scatter radar facilities. The principal focus of this study is the validation of the electron density profiles inferred from GPS occultation observations using the Abel transform.