Influence of the inhomogeneous troposphere on GNSS positioning and integer ambiguity resolution

Hongyang Ma*, Dimitrios Psychas, Xuhuang Xing, Qile Zhao, Sandra Verhagen, Xianglin Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The tropospheric delay is one of many error sources that affect the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) positioning solutions. The widely used troposphere models assume a homogeneous atmosphere so that only the zenith delay needs to be determined and is mapped through an elevation-dependent mapping function. This procedure is to reduce the computational burden and keep the positioning model full-rank. However, this assumption fails for a realistic description of the troposphere, which is always asymmetrical at a certain elevation angle, especially during a weather event when the weather conditions are very complex. These imperfectly modelled tropospheric delays may influence the positioning accuracy and integer ambiguity resolution performance. In this case, this contribution aims to investigate the effects of the model errors due to the asymmetrical troposphere on GNSS estimations. The Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) model is applied to generate the actual ray-tracing tropospheric delay in Western Europe, and the tropospheric model errors are calculated in a normal weather condition and a weather event condition by comparing the slant delay calculated from the NWP model and the mapping function. Case studies on the same GNSS station are conducted in two weather conditions: a normal troposphere condition and a weather event with heavy rainfall. The results based on the case studies show that the troposphere in the normal weather condition is nearly homogeneous that the azimuthal-dependent discrepancies of the tropospheric delay are less than 1cm at a very low elevation angle; meanwhile, the discrepancies between different azimuthal angles can reach to more than 25cm in the weather event. A single-frequency Single Point Positioning (SPP) model and a Precise Point Positioning (PPP) model that preserves the integer property of ambiguity are chosen for studying the estimation biases caused by the troposphere model errors. It turns out that almost all horizontal positioning biases of SPP and PPP are less than 1cm in the normal weather condition; however, the scales of the horizontal and 3D biases are concentrated in 1 to 10cm in the weather event for these two models. This contribution also contains the study of the actual integer ambiguity resolution success rate in the presence of the tropospheric model errors by applying the Monte Carlo simulation, and the success rates of PPP in the normal weather condition are consistent with the theoretical values calculated with the ideal troposphere which is totally symmetrical. However, the actual success rates in the weather event are extremely low at some epochs due to the tropospheric model errors, which means that wrong fixing may occur since the theoretical values cannot take into account these model errors. Note that the horizontal tropospheric gradients are not involved in the processing, which means that an optimistic performance might be expected if the gradients are considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1914-1928
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Space Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • GNSS
  • Integer ambiguity resolution
  • Model errors
  • Monte Carlo simulation
  • PPP
  • PPP-AR
  • Tropospheric delay


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