Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

William J. Emery

Second Advisor

Albin J. Gasiewski

Third Advisor

Robert Marshall

Fourth Advisor

Jeffrey P. Thayer

Fifth Advisor

James Randa


Microwave radiometers allow remote sensing of earth and atmospheric temperatures from space, anytime, anywhere, through clouds, and in the dark. Data from microwave radiometers are high-impact operational inputs to weather forecasts, and are used to provide a vast array of climate data products including land and sea surface temperatures, soil moisture, ocean salinity, cloud precipitation and moisture height profiles, and even wind speed and direction, to name a few. Space-borne microwave radiometers have a major weakness when it comes to long-term climate trends due to their lack of traceability. Because there is no standard, or absolute reference, for microwave brightness temperature, nationally or internationally, individual instruments must each rely on their own internal calibration source to set an absolute reference to the fundamental unit of Kelvin. This causes each subsequent instrument to have a calibration offset and there is no ‘true’ reference. The work introduced in this thesis addresses this vacancy by proposing and introducing a NIST microwave brightness temperature source that may act as the primary reference. The NIST standard will allow pre-launch calibration of radiometers across a broad range of remote sensing pertinent frequencies between 18 GHz and 220 GHz. The blackbody will be capable of reaching temperatures ranging between liquid nitrogen boiling at approximately 77 K and warm-target temperature of 350 K. The brightness temperature of the source has associated standard uncertainty ranging as a function of frequency between 0.084 K and 0.111 K. The standard can be transferred to the calibration source in the instrument, providing traceability of all subsequent measurements back to the primary standard. The development of the NIST standard source involved predicting and measuring its brightness temperature, and minimizing the associated uncertainty of this quantity. Uniform and constant physical temperature along with well characterized and maximized emissivity are fundamental to a well characterized blackbody. The chosen geometry is a microwave absorber coated copper cone. Electromagnetic and thermal simulations are introduced to optimize the design. Experimental verifications of the simulated quantities confirm the predicted performance of the blackbody.


Sixth advisor: David K. Walker.