Confidence in the use of Earth observations for monitoring essential climate variables (ECVs) relies on the validation of satellite calibration accuracy to within a well-defined uncertainty. The gap analysis for integrated atmospheric ECV climate monitoring (GAIA-CLIM) project investigated the calibration/validation of satellite data sets using non-satellite reference data. Here, we explore the role of numerical weather prediction (NWP) frameworks for the assessment of several meteorological satellite sensors: the advanced microwave scanning radiometer 2 (AMSR2), microwave humidity sounder-2 (MWHS-2), microwave radiation imager (MWRI), and global precipitation measurement (GPM) microwave imager (GMI). We find departures (observation-model differences) are sensitive to instrument calibration artefacts. Uncertainty in surface emission is identified as a key gap in our ability to validate microwave imagers quantitatively in NWP. The prospects for NWP-based validation of future instruments are considered, taking as examples the microwave sounder (MWS) and infrared atmospheric sounding interferometer-next generation (IASI-NG) on the next generation of European polar-orbiting satellites. Through comparisons with reference radiosondes, uncertainties in NWP fields can be estimated in terms of equivalent top-of-atmosphere brightness temperature. We find NWP-sonde differences are consistent with a total combined uncertainty of 0.15 K for selected temperature sounding channels, while uncertainties for humidity sounding channels typically exceed 1 K.
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