Dual-frequency Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSSs) enable the estimation of Zenith Tropospheric Delay (ZTD) which can be converted to Precipitable Water Vapor (PWV). The density of existing GNSS monitoring networks is insufficient to capture small-scale water vapor variations that are especially important for extreme weather forecasting. A densification with geodetic-grade dual-frequency receivers is not economically feasible. Cost-efficient single-frequency receivers offer a possible alternative. This paper studies the feasibility of using low-cost receivers to increase the density of GNSS networks for retrieval of PWV. We processed one year of GNSS data from an IGS station and two co-located single-frequency stations. Additionally, in another experiment, the Radio Frequency (RF) signal from a geodetic-grade dual-frequency antenna was split to a geodetic receiver and two low-cost receivers. To process the single-frequency observations in Precise Point Positioning (PPP) mode, we apply the Satellite-specific Epoch-differenced Ionospheric Delay (SEID) model using two different reference network configurations of 50–80 km and 200–300 km mean station distances, respectively. Our research setup can distinguish between the antenna, ionospheric interpolation, and software-related impacts on the quality of PWV retrievals. The study shows that single-frequency GNSS receivers can achieve a quality similar to that of geodetic receivers in terms of RMSE for ZTD estimations. We demonstrate that modeling of the ionosphere and the antenna type are the main sources influencing the ZTD precision.
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