Quantitative knowledge of water vapor radiative processes in the atmosphere throughout the terrestrial and solar infrared spectrum is still incomplete even though this is crucial input to the radiation codes forming the core of both remote sensing methods and climate simulations. Beside laboratory spectroscopy, ground-based remote sensing field studies in the context of so-called radiative closure experiments are a powerful approach because this is the only way to quantify water absorption under cold atmospheric conditions. For this purpose, we have set up at the Zugspitze (47.42° N, 10.98° E; 2964 m a.s.l.) a long-term radiative closure experiment designed to cover the infrared spectrum between 400 and 7800 cm−1 (1.28–25 µm). As a benefit for such experiments, the atmospheric states at the Zugspitze frequently comprise very low integrated water vapor (IWV; minimum = 0.1 mm, median = 2.3 mm) and very low aerosol optical depth (AOD = 0.0024–0.0032 at 7800 cm−1 at air mass 1). All instruments for radiance measurements and atmospheric-state measurements are described along with their measurement uncertainties. Based on all parame ... mehrter uncertainties and the corresponding radiance Jacobians, a systematic residual radiance uncertainty budget has been set up to characterize the sensitivity of the radiative closure over the whole infrared spectral range. The dominant uncertainty contribution in the spectral windows used for far-infrared (FIR) continuum quantification is from IWV uncertainties, while T profile uncertainties dominate in the mid-infrared (MIR). Uncertainty contributions to near-infrared (NIR) radiance residuals are dominated by water vapor line parameters in the vicinity of the strong water vapor bands. The window regions in between these bands are dominated by solar Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) calibration uncertainties at low NIR wavenumbers, while uncertainties due to AOD become an increasing and dominant contribution towards higher NIR wavenumbers. Exceptions are methane or nitrous oxide bands in the NIR, where the associated line parameter uncertainties dominate the overall uncertainty.
As a first demonstration of the Zugspitze closure experiment, a water vapor continuum quantification in the FIR spectral region (400–580 cm−1) has been performed. The resulting FIR foreign-continuum coefficients are consistent with the MT_CKD 2.5.2 continuum model and also agree with the most recent atmospheric closure study carried out in Antarctica. Results from the first determination of the NIR water vapor continuum in a field experiment are detailed in a companion paper (Reichert and Sussmann, 2016) while a novel NIR calibration scheme for the underlying FTIR measurements of incoming solar radiance is presented in another companion paper.