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Analysis of co-located MODIS and CALIPSO observations near clouds

Várnai, T., and A. Marshak (2012), Analysis of co-located MODIS and CALIPSO observations near clouds, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 389-396, doi:10.5194/amt-5-389-2012.

This paper aims at helping synergistic studies in combining data from different satellites for gaining new insights into two critical yet poorly understood aspects of anthropogenic climate change, aerosol-cloud interactions and aerosol radiative effects. In particular, the paper examines the way cloud information from the MODIS (MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) imager can refine our perceptions based on CALIOP (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization) lidar measurements about the systematic aerosol changes that occur near clouds.

The statistical analysis of a yearlong dataset of colocated global maritime observations from the Aqua and CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) satellites reveals that MODIS’s multispectral imaging ability can greatly help the interpretation of CALIOP observations. The results show that imagers on Aqua and CALIPSO yield very similar pictures, and that the discrepancies – due mainly to wind drift and differences in view angle – do not significantly hinder aerosol measurements near clouds. By detecting clouds outside the CALIOP track, MODIS reveals that clouds are usually closer to clear areas than CALIOP data alone would suggest. The paper finds statistical relationships between the distances to clouds in MODIS and CALIOP data, and proposes a rescaling approach to statistically account for the impact of clouds outside the CALIOP track even when MODIS cannot reliably detect low clouds, for example at night or over sea ice. Finally, the results show that the typical distance to clouds depends on both cloud coverage and cloud type, and accordingly varies with location and season. In maritime areas perceived cloud free, the global median distance to clouds below 3 km altitude is in the 4–5 km range.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)