The cryogenic frostpoint hygrometer (CFH) is a small, balloon-borne instrument that provides highly accurate measurements of water vapor in the atmosphere. The CFH has a significantly greater sensitivity to water vapor than standard radiosondes, as it can measure the frostpoint or dewpoint temperatures at an accuracy better than 0.2 K corresponding to water volume mixing ratio accuracies of only a few parts per million.
The main instrument component is a small mirror, which is cooled by a cryogen in order to be covered with a thin layer of water vapor condensate. A pair of photodiodes detects the condensation on the temperature-controlled mirror. The phase of the condensate is controlled by a force-freezing algorithm, allowing for clear interpretation of the dew point versus frostpoint.
The replacement of analog electronics with a microprocessor, a feedback controller, and thermistor calibration have improved accuracy and performance of the CFH over its predecessors. Further characteristics like reduced power consumption and low instrument weight made the CFH a successful instrument to perform in situ balloon-borne measurements of water vapor in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. CFH measurements are now used worldwide to validate radiosonde, satellite, and ground-based profiler measurements.