Extension and statistical analysis of the GACP aerosol optical thickness record

Geogdzhayev, I., M. Mishchenko, J. Li, W. Rossow, L. Liu, and B. Cairns (2015), Extension and statistical analysis of the GACP aerosol optical thickness record, Atmos. Res., 164–165, 268-277, doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2015.05.013.

The primary product of the Global Aerosol Climatology Project (GACP) is a continuous record of the aerosol optical thickness (AOT) over the oceans. It is based on channel-1 and -2 radiance data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instruments flown on successive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) platforms. We extend the previous GACP dataset by four years through the end of 2009 using NOAA-17 and -18 AVHRR radiances recalibrated against MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) radiance data, thereby making the GACP record almost three decades long. The temporal overlap of over three years of the new NOAA-17 and the previous NOAA-16 record reveals an excellent agreement of the corresponding global monthly mean AOT values, thereby confirming the robustness of the vicarious radiance calibration used in the original GACP product. The temporal overlap of the NOAA-17 and -18 instruments is used to introduce a small additive adjustment to the channel-2 calibration of the latter resulting in a consistent record with increased data density. The Principal Component Analysis (PCA) of the newly extended GACP record shows that most of the volcanic AOT variability can be isolated into one mode responsible for ~12% of the total variance. This conclusion is confirmed by a combined PCA analysis of the GACP, MODIS, and Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) AOTs during the volcano-free period from February 2000 to December 2009. We show that the modes responsible for the tropospheric AOT variability in the three datasets agree well in terms of correlation and spatial patterns. A previously identified negative AOT trend which started in the late 1980s and continued into the early 2000s is confirmed. Its magnitude and duration indicate that it was caused by changes in tropospheric aerosols. The latest multi-satellite segment of the GACP record shows that this trend tapered off, with no noticeable AOT change after 2002. This result is consistent with the MODIS and MISR AOT records as well as with the recent gradual reversal from brightening to dimming revealed by surface flux measurements in many aerosol producing regions. Thus the robustness of the GACP record is confirmed, increasing our confidence in the validity of the negative trend. Although the nominal negative GACP AOT trend could partially be an artifact of increasing aerosol absorption, we argue that the time dependence of the GACP record, including the latest flat period, is more consistent with the actual decrease in the tropospheric AOT.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)