Ground-based Nighttime Cloud Detection Using a Commercial Digital Camera: Observations at Manila Observatory (14.64N, 121.07E)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Glenn Franco Barroso Gacal1, Francis Tan1, Carlo Ting Antioquia1 and Nofel Lagrosas2, (1)Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City, Philippines, (2)Ateneo de Manila University, Manila Observatory, Quezon City, Philippines
Cloud detection during nighttime poses a real problem to researchers because of a lack of optimum sensors that can specifically detect clouds during this time of the day. Hence, lidars and satellites are currently some of the instruments that are being utilized to determine cloud presence in the atmosphere. These clouds play a significant role in the night weather system for the reason that they serve as barriers of thermal radiation from the Earth and thereby reflecting this radiation back to the Earth. This effectively lowers the rate of decreasing temperature in the atmosphere at night. The objective of this study is to detect cloud occurrences at nighttime for the purpose of studying patterns of cloud occurrence and the effects of clouds on local weather. In this study, a commercial camera (Canon Powershot A2300) is operated continuously to capture nighttime clouds. The camera is situated inside a weather-proof box with a glass cover and is placed on the rooftop of the Manila Observatory building to gather pictures of the sky every 5min to observe cloud dynamics and evolution in the atmosphere. To detect pixels with clouds, the pictures are converted from its native JPEG to grayscale format. The pixels are then screened for clouds by looking at the values of pixels with and without clouds. In grayscale format, pixels with clouds have greater pixel values than pixels without clouds. Based on the observations, 0.34 of the maximum pixel value is enough to discern pixels with clouds from pixels without clouds. Figs. 1a & 1b are sample unprocessed pictures of cloudless night (May 22-23, 2014) and cloudy skies (May 23-24, 2014), respectively. Figs.1c and 1d show percentage of occurrence of nighttime clouds on May 22-23 and May 23-24, 2014, respectively. The cloud occurrence in a pixel is defined as the ratio of the number times when the pixel has clouds to the total number of observations. Fig. 1c shows less than 50% cloud occurrence while Fig. 1d shows cloud occurrence more than what is shown in Fig. 1c. These graphs show the capability of the camera to detect and measure the cloud occurrence at nighttime. Continuous collection of nighttime pictures is currently implemented. In regions where there is a dearth of scientific data, the measured nighttime cloud occurrence will serve as a baseline for future cloud studies in this part of the world.