Assessment of the Quality of MODIS Cloud Products from Radiance Simulations

Ham, S., B. Sohn, P. Yang, and B. A. Baum (2009), Assessment of the Quality of MODIS Cloud Products from Radiance Simulations, J. Appl. Meteor. Climat., 48, 1591-1612, doi:10.1175/2009JAMC2121.1.

Observations made by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS), the Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO), and CloudSat are synergistically used to evaluate the accuracy of theoretical simulations of the radiances at the top of the atmosphere (TOA). Specifically, TOA radiances of 15 MODIS bands are simulated for overcast, optically thick, and single-phase clouds only over the ocean from 608N to 608S, corresponding to about 12% of all the MODIS cloud observations. Plane parallel atmosphere is assumed in the simulation by restricting viewing/solar zenith angle to be less than 408. Input data for the radiative transfer model (RTM) are obtained from the operational MODIS-retrieved cloud optical thickness, effective radius, and cloud-top pressure (converted to height) collocated with the AIRS-retrieved temperature and humidity profiles. In the RTM, ice cloud bulk scattering properties, based on theoretical scattering computations and in situ microphysical data, are used for the radiative transfer simulations. The results show that radiances for shortwave bands between 0.466 and 0.857 micron appear to be very accurate with errors on the order of 5%, implying that MODIS cloud parameters provide sufficient information for the radiance simulations. However, simulated radiances for the 1.24-, 1.63-, and 3.78-micron bands do not agree as well with the observed radiances as a result of the use of a single effective radius for a cloud layer that may be vertically inhomogeneous in reality. Furthermore, simulated radiances for the water vapor absorption bands located near 0.93 and 1.38 mm show positive biases, whereas the window bands from 8.5 to 12 micron show negative biases compared to observations, likely due to the less accurate estimate of cloud-top and cloud-base heights. It is further shown that the accuracies of the simulations for water vapor and window bands can be substantially improved by accounting for the vertical cloud distribution provided by the CALIPSO and CloudSat measurements.

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Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)