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A new measurement approach for validating satellite-based above-cloud aerosol...

Gatebe, C., H. Jethva, R. Gautam, R. Poudyal, and T. Várnai (2021), A new measurement approach for validating satellite-based above-cloud aerosol optical depth, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 14, 1405-1423, doi:10.5194/amt-14-1405-2021.

The retrieval of aerosol parameters from passive satellite instruments in cloudy scenes is challenging, partly because clouds and cloud-related processes may significantly modify aerosol optical depth (AOD) and particle size, a problem that is further compounded by 3D radiative processes. Recent advances in retrieval algorithms such as the “color ratio” method, which utilizes the measurements at a shorter (470 nm) and a longer (860 nm) wavelength, have demonstrated the simultaneous derivation of AOD and cloud optical depth (COD) for scenes in which absorbing aerosols are found to overlay low-level cloud decks. This study shows simultaneous retrievals of abovecloud aerosol optical depth (ACAOD) and aerosol-corrected cloud optical depth (COD) from airborne measurements of cloud-reflected and sky radiances using the color ratio method. These airborne measurements were taken over marine stratocumulus clouds with NASA’s Cloud Absorption Radiometer (CAR) during the SAFARI 2000 field campaign offshore of Namibia. The ACAOD is partitioned between the AOD below-aircraft (AOD_cloudtop) and above-aircraft AOD (AOD_sky). The results show good agreement between AOD_sky and sun-photometer measurements of the aboveaircraft AOD. The results also show that the use of aircraftbased sun-photometer measurements to validate satellite retrievals of the ACAOD is complicated by the lack of information on AOD below aircraft. Specifically, the CAR-retrieved AOD_cloudtop captures this “missing” aerosol layer caught between the aircraft and cloud top, which is required to quantify above-cloud aerosol loading and effectively validate satellite retrievals. In addition, the study finds a strong anticorrelation between the AOD_cloudtop and COD for cases in which COD < 10 and a weaker anticorrelation for COD > 10, which may be associated with the uncertainties in the color ratio method at lower AODs and CODs. The influence of 3D radiative effects on the retrievals is examined, and the results show that at cloud troughs, 3D effects increase retrieved ACAOD by about 3 %–11 % and retrieved COD by about 25 %. The results show that the color ratio method has little sensitivity to 3D effects at overcast stratocumulus cloud decks. These results demonstrate a novel airborne measurement approach for assessing satellite retrievals of aerosols above clouds, thereby filling a major gap in global aerosol observations.

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Research Program: 
Terrestrial Hydrology Program (THP)
Radiation Science Program (RSP)