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Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Clouds Observed by MODIS Onboard the Terra...

King, M. D., S. Platnick, P. Menzel, S. Ackerman, and P. A. Hubanks (2013), Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Clouds Observed by MODIS Onboard the Terra and Aqua Satellites, IEEE Trans. Geosci. Remote Sens., 51, 3826-3852, doi:10.1109/TGRS.2012.2227333.

Cloud properties have been retrieved from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) over 12 years of continuous observations from Terra and over nine years from Aqua. Results include the spatial and temporal distribution of cloud fraction, the cloud top pressure and cloud top temperature, and the cloud optical thickness and effective radius of both liquid water and ice clouds. Globally, the cloud fraction derived by the MODIS cloud mask is ∼67%, with somewhat more clouds over land during the afternoon and less clouds over ocean in the afternoon, with very little difference in global cloud cover between Terra and Aqua. Overall, the cloud fraction over land is ∼55%, with a distinctive seasonal cycle, whereas the ocean cloudiness is much higher, around 72%, with much reduced seasonal variation. Aqua and Terra have comparable zonal cloud top pressures, with Aqua having somewhat higher clouds (cloud top pressures lower by 100 hPa) over land due to afternoon deep convection. The coldest cloud tops (colder than 230 K) generally occur over Antarctica and the high clouds in the tropics. The cloud effective particle radius of liquid water clouds is significantly larger over ocean (mode 12–13 μm) than land (mode 10–11 μm), consistent with the variation in hygroscopic aerosol concentrations that provide cloud condensation nuclei necessary for cloud formation. We also find the effective radius to be 2–3 μm larger in the southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere, likely reflecting differences in sources of cloud condensation nuclei.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)