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Retrieval of Aerosol Optical Depth above Clouds from OMI Observations:...

Torres, O., H. Jethva, and P. Bhartia (2012), Retrieval of Aerosol Optical Depth above Clouds from OMI Observations: Sensitivity Analysis and Case Studies, J. Atmos. Sci., 69, 1037-1053, doi:10.1175/JAS-D-11-0130.1.

A large fraction of the atmospheric aerosol load reaching the free troposphere is frequently located above low clouds. Most commonly observed aerosols above clouds are carbonaceous particles generally associated with biomass burning and boreal forest fires, and mineral aerosols originating in arid and semiarid regions and transported across large distances, often above clouds. Because these aerosols absorb solar radiation, their role in the radiative transfer balance of the earth–atmosphere system is especially important. The generally negative (cooling) top-of-the-atmosphere direct effect of absorbing aerosols may turn into warming when the light-absorbing particles are located above clouds. The actual effect depends on the aerosol load and the single scattering albedo, and on the geometric cloud fraction. In spite of its potential significance, the role of aerosols above clouds is not adequately accounted for in the assessment of aerosol radiative forcing effects due to the lack of measurements. This paper discusses the basis of a simple technique that uses near-UV observations to simultaneously derive the optical depth of both the aerosol layer and the underlying cloud for overcast conditions. The two-parameter retrieval method described here makes use of the UV aerosol index and reflectance measurements at 388 nm. A detailed sensitivity analysis indicates that the measured radiances depend mainly on the aerosol absorption exponent and aerosol–cloud separation. The technique was applied to above-cloud aerosol events over the southern Atlantic Ocean, yielding realistic results as indicated by indirect evaluation methods. An error analysis indicates that for typical overcast cloudy conditions and aerosol loads, the aerosol optical depth can be retrieved with an accuracy of approximately 54% whereas the cloud optical depth can be derived within 17% of the true value.

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Atmospheric Composition
Atmospheric Composition Modeling and Analysis Program (ACMAP)