Despite different techniques for the estimation of column integrated water vapour (precipitable water, PW) no method has yet been identified as the most accurate or the reference one. In this work we report intercomparisons between four PW estimation methods – radiosonde, Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET), Global Positioning System (GPS), and High Resolution Limited Area Model (HIRLAM). Two intensive observation periods at Tõravere, Estonia, were used: 22 June-6 November 2008 and 9-12 August 2010. During the longer campaign, only observations by GPS, AERONET, and HIRLAM were performed. An agreement with average difference less than 2.2% among all three methods was established. However, compared to HIRLAM and GPS, the AERONET method overestimated PW by 5–9% at PW < 12 mm and underestimated it by 6–10% at PW > 25 mm. In addition, the consistency test applied indicated that previously reported uncertainty in AERONET-measured PW is too high. During the shorter but more complex campaign, data obtained with all four methods were available. Although the average differences between PW from radiosonde and three other methods were < 5%, the discrepancy between single measurements reached 33%. Relatively low temporal and spatial resolution of the HIRLAM grid as well as launching sparseness of radiosondes caused higher scatter from the other methods. The study suggests that besides radiosonde, as a traditional meteorological tool, the most reliable PW estimation can be made by GPS.
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