Knowledge of vertical air motion in the atmosphere is important for both meteorological and climate studies due to its impact on clouds, precipitation and the vertical transport of air masses, heat, momentum, and composition. The vertical velocity (VV) of air is among the most difficult and uncertain quantities to measure due to its generally small magnitude and high temporal and spatial variability. In this study, a descending radiosonde system is developed to derive VV at the low and middle troposphere in north China during the summer months. The VV is estimated from the difference between the observed radiosonde descent speed and the calculated radiosonde descent speed in still air based on the fluid dynamic principle. The results showed that the estimated VV generally ranged from −1 m/s to 1 m/s, accounting for 80.2% of data points. In convective conditions, a wider distribution of the VV was observed, which was skewed to large values relative to those in nonconvective conditions. The average VV throughout the entire profile was close to 0 m/s under nonconvective conditions. In contrast, distinctive vertical air motions below 5 km above the ground were recorded under convective activities. Vigorous air motions with an absolute VV >2 m/s were occasionally observed and were often associated with the occurrence of cloud layers. Moreover, the detailed structure of the instant air motion near the cloud boundaries (i.e., top and base), with an absolute VV >10 m/s in convective weather systems, was clearly revealed by this technique. The uncertainty estimation indicated that this method has the potential to capture and describe events with vertical air motions >0.69 m/s, which is useful for a convective weather study. Further studies are required to carefully assess the accuracy and precision of this novel VV estimation technique.
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