EGU24-5656, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Impact of GNSS tropospheric gradient assimilation and sensitivity analysis

Rohith Thundathil1,2, Florian Zus2, Galina Dick2, and Jens Wickert1,2
Rohith Thundathil et al.
  • 1Technische Universität Berlin, Germany (
  • 2German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Germany (GFZ) (

The Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) ground-based network in Europe is a comparatively dense network that provides valuable humidity information through Zenith Total Delays (ZTDs) and tropospheric gradients. ZTDs include information on column water vapor, while tropospheric gradients provide information on moisture distribution. Recently, we developed the tropospheric gradient operator (Zus et al., 2023) and implemented it in the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model (Thundathil et al., 2023, under review).

We have conducted ZTD and tropospheric gradient assimilation experiments over a couple of periods, which lasted for two months. We will present our latest test period, the Benchmark Campaign organized within the European COST Action, in May and June 2013. Data from more than 250 GNSS stations in central Europe covering Germany, the Czech Republic, and part of Poland and Austria were assimilated during this period. The data assimilation (DA) system used a rapid update cycle of 3-dimensional variational DA with 6-hourly cycles for two months.

Our research methodology involved configuring a 0.1 x 0.1-degree mesh in the WRF model with 50 vertical levels up to 50 hPa for Europe. Model forcing was done with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) operational analysis. We conducted three runs, which included the assimilation of conventional datasets from ECMWF (or control run), ZTD added on top of the control run, and ZTD and gradients on top of the control run. We observed a significant reduction of the root mean square errors; we observed a 42 % and 16 % reduction for ZTDs and gradients in the ZTD assimilation run, which further reduced to 43 % and 21 % for ZTDs and gradients in the ZTD and gradient assimilation. Validation with the atmospheric reanalysis ERA5 and radiosondes revealed improvements in the lower troposphere.

We conducted an additional sensitivity experiment using a sparsely distributed GNSS network. This process involved reducing the station density from roughly 0.5 degrees to 1 degree by replacing the original network with one consisting of 100 stations. We found that the improvement in the humidity field with the assimilation of ZTD and gradients from the sparse station network (1-degree resolution) is roughly the same as in the humidity field with the assimilation of ZTD only from the dense station network (0.5-degree resolution). Therefore, the assimilation of gradients in addition to ZTDs is particularly interesting in regions with a few GNSS stations. It may also be considered a cost-effective way to increase the density of networks.

After preliminary testing of the GNSS ZTD plus gradient assimilation with WRF, we are ready to move to convective-scale assimilation using an ensemble-based approach over different regions and seasons. We will be presenting initial results from our high-resolution simulations.


Zus, F., Thundathil R., Dick G., and Wickert J. "Fast Observation Operator for Global Navigation Satellite System Tropospheric Gradients." Remote Sensing 15, no. 21 (2023): 5114.

Thundathil, R. M., Zus, F., Dick, G., and Wickert, J. "Assimilation of GNSS Tropospheric Gradients into the Weather Research and Forecasting Model Version 4.4.1", Geoscientific Model Development Discussion [preprint], in review, 2023.

How to cite: Thundathil, R., Zus, F., Dick, G., and Wickert, J.: Impact of GNSS tropospheric gradient assimilation and sensitivity analysis, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-5656,, 2024.