Validating Above-cloud Aerosol Optical Depth Retrieved from MODIS using NASA Ames Airborne Sun-Tracking Photometric and Spectrometric (AATS and 4STAR) Measurements
Abstract:Absorbing aerosols produced from biomass burning and dust outbreaks are often found to overlay the lower level cloud decks as evident in the satellite images. In contrast to the cloud-free atmosphere, in which aerosols generally tend to cool the atmosphere, the presence of absorbing aerosols above cloud poses greater potential of exerting positive radiative effects (warming) whose magnitude directly depends on the aerosol loading above cloud, optical properties of clouds and aerosols, and cloud fraction.
In recent years, development of algorithms that exploit satellite-based passive measurements of ultraviolet (UV), visible, and polarized light as well as lidar-based active measurements constitute a major breakthrough in the field of remote sensing of aerosols. While the unprecedented quantitative information on aerosol loading above cloud is now available from NASA’s A-train sensors, a greater question remains ahead: How to validate the satellite retrievals of above-cloud aerosols (ACA)? Direct measurements of ACA such as carried out by the NASA Ames Airborne Tracking Sunphotometer (AATS) and Spectrometer for Sky-Scanning, Sun-Tracking Atmospheric Research (4STAR) can be of immense help in validating ACA retrievals. In this study, we validate the ACA optical depth retrieved using the ‘color ratio’ (CR) method applied to the MODIS cloudy-sky reflectance by using the airborne AATS and 4STAR measurements. A thorough search of the historic AATS-4STAR database collected during different field campaigns revealed five events where biomass burning, dust, and wildfire-emitted aerosols were found to overlay lower level cloud decks observed during SAFARI-2000, ACE-ASIA 2001, and SEAC4RS-2013, respectively. The co-located satellite-airborne measurements revealed a good agreement (root-mean-square-error<0.1 for Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) at 500 nm) with most matchups falling within the estimated uncertainties in the MODIS retrievals (-10% to +50%).
An extensive validation of satellite-based ACA retrievals requires equivalent field measurements particularly over the regions where ACA are often observed from satellites, i.e., south-eastern Atlantic Ocean, tropical Atlantic Ocean, northern Arabian Sea, South-East and North-East Asia.