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Observation-Based Study on Aerosol Optical Depth and Particle Size in Partly...

Várnai, T., A. Marshak, and T. F. Eck (2017), Observation-Based Study on Aerosol Optical Depth and Particle Size in Partly Cloudy Regions, J. Geophys. Res., 122, 10,013-10,024, doi:10.1002/2017JD027028.

This study seeks to help better understand aerosol-cloud interactions by examining statistical relationships between aerosol properties and nearby low-altitude cloudiness using satellite data. The analysis of a global data set of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer observations reveals that the positive correlation between cloudiness and aerosol optical depth (AOD) reported in earlier studies is strong throughout the globe and during both winter and summer. Typically, AOD is 30–50% higher on cloudier-than-average days than on less cloudy days. A combination of satellite observations and Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 global reanalysis data reveals that the correlation between cloud cover and AOD is strong for all aerosol types considered: sulfate, dust, carbon, and sea salt. The observations also indicate that in the presence of nearby clouds, aerosol size distributions tend to shift toward smaller particles over large regions of the Earth. This is consistent with a greater cloud-related increase in the AOD of fine-mode than of coarse-mode particles. The greater increase in fine-mode AOD implies that the cloudiness-AOD correlation does not come predominantly from cloud detection uncertainties. Additionally, the results show that aerosol particle size increases near clouds even in regions where it decreases with increasing cloudiness. This suggests that the decrease with cloudiness comes mainly from changes in large-scale environment, rather than from clouds increasing the number or the size of fine-mode aerosols. Finally, combining different aerosol retrieval algorithms demonstrated that quality assessment flags based on local variability can help identifying when the observed aerosol populations are affected by surrounding clouds.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)