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Near-cloud aerosol properties from the 1 km resolution MODIS ocean product

Várnai, T., and A. Marshak (2014), Near-cloud aerosol properties from the 1 km resolution MODIS ocean product, J. Geophys. Res., 119, 1546-1554, doi:10.1002/2013JD020633.

This study examines aerosol properties in the vicinity of clouds by analyzing high-resolution atmospheric correction parameters provided in the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) ocean color product. The study analyzes data from a 2 week long period of September in 10 years, covering a large area in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. The results indicate that on the one hand, the Quality Assessment (QA) flags of the ocean color product successfully eliminate cloud-related uncertainties in ocean parameters such as chlorophyll content, but on the other hand, using the flags introduces a sampling bias in atmospheric products such as aerosol optical thickness (AOT) and Angstrom exponent. Therefore, researchers need to select QA flags by balancing the risks of increased retrieval uncertainties and sampling biases. Using an optimal set of QA flags, the results reveal substantial increases in optical thickness near clouds—on average the increase is 50% for the roughly half of pixels within 5 km from clouds and is accompanied by a roughly matching increase in particle size. Theoretical simulations show that the 50% increase in 550 nm AOT changes instantaneous direct aerosol radiative forcing by up to 8 W/m2 and that the radiative impact is significantly larger if observed near-cloud changes are attributed to aerosol particles as opposed to undetected cloud particles. These results underline that accounting for near-cloud areas and understanding the causes of near-cloud particle changes are critical for accurate calculations of direct aerosol radiative forcing.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)