Exploring atmospheric blocking with GPS radio occultation observations
Abstract. Atmospheric blocking has been closely investigated in recent years due to its impact on weather and climate, such as heat waves, droughts, and flooding. We use, for the first time, satellite-based observations from Global Positioning System (GPS) radio occultation (RO) and explore their ability to resolve blocking in order to potentially open up new avenues complementing models and reanalyses. RO delivers globally available and vertically highly resolved profiles of atmospheric variables such as temperature and geopotential height (GPH). Applying a standard blocking detection algorithm, we find that RO data robustly capture blocking as demonstrated for two well-known blocking events over Russia in summer 2010 and over Greenland in late winter 2013. During blocking episodes, vertically resolved GPH gradients show a distinct anomalous behavior compared to climatological conditions up to 300 hPa and sometimes even further up into the tropopause. The accompanying increase in GPH of up to 300 m in the upper troposphere yields a pronounced tropopause height increase. Corresponding temperatures rise up to 10 K in the middle and lower troposphere. These results demonstrate the feasibility and potential of RO to detect and resolve blocking and in particular to explore the vertical structure of the atmosphere during blocking episodes. This new observation-based view is available globally at the same quality so that blocking in the Southern Hemisphere can also be studied with the same reliability as in the Northern Hemisphere.