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Objective Assessment of the Information Content of Visible and Infrared...

Cooper, S. J., T. L'Ecuyer, P. Gabriel, A. J. Baran, and G. L. Stephens (2006), Objective Assessment of the Information Content of Visible and Infrared Radiance Measurements for Cloud Microphysical Property Retrievals over the Global Oceans. Part II: Ice Clouds, J. Appl. Meteor. Climat., 45, 42-62.

Cirrus clouds play an important yet poorly determined role in the earth’s climate system and its various feedback mechanisms. As such, a significant amount of work has been accomplished both in understanding the physics of the ice clouds and in using this knowledge to estimate global distributions of ice cloud properties from satellite-based instruments. This work seeks to build on these past efforts by offering a reexamination of the ice cloud retrieval problem in context of recent advancements in the understanding of optical properties for a variety of realistic ice crystal shapes. In this work, the formal information content analysis outlined in Part I is used to objectively select the optimal combination of measurements for an ice cloud microphysical property retrieval scheme given a realistic assessment of the uncertainties that govern the ice cloud retrieval problem. Although this analysis is for a theoretical retrieval combining simulated measurements from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) with the CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) above an ocean surface, the general methodology is applicable to any instrument package. Channel selection via information content is determined through a realistic characterization of not only the sensitivity of top-of-the-atmosphere radiances to desired retrieval parameters but also to the uncertainties resulting from both the measurements themselves and from the forward model assumptions used in relating observational and retrieval space. Results suggest that the channels that maximize retrieval information are strongly dependent upon the state of the atmosphere, meaning that no combination of two or three channels will always ensure an accurate retrieval. Because of the complexities of this state-dependent nature and the need for a consistent retrieval scheme for an operational retrieval, a five-channel retrieval approach consisting of a combination of error-weighted visible, near-infrared, and infrared channels is suggested. Such an approach ensures high information content regardless of cloud and atmospheric properties through use of the inherent sensitivities in each of these spectral regions.