Polarimetric Retrievals of Cloud Droplet Number Concentrations

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Kenneth Sinclair1, Brian Cairns2, Johnathan W Hair3, Yongxiang Hu3 and Chris A Hostetler3, (1)Columbia University, New York, NY, United States, (2)NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, United States, (3)NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, United States
Cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC) is one of the most significant microphysical properties of liquid clouds and is essential for the understanding of aerosol-cloud interaction. It impacts radiative forcing, cloud evolution, precipitation, global climate and, through observation, can be used to monitor the cloud albedo effect, or the first indirect effect. The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report continues to consider aerosol-cloud interactions as one of the largest uncertainties in radiative forcing of climate.

The SABOR experiment, which was a NASA-led ship and air campaign off the east coast of the United States during July and August of 2014, provided an opportunity for the Research Scanning Polarimeter (RSP) to develop and cross-validate a new approach of sensing CDNC with the High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL). The RSP is an airborne prototype of the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) that was on-board the Glory satellite. It is a scanning sensor that provides high-precision measurements of polarized and full-intensity radiances at multiple angles over a wide spectral range.

The distinctive feature of the polarimetric technique is that it does not make any assumption of the liquid water profile within the cloud. The approach involves (1) estimating the droplet size distribution from polarized reflectance observations in the rainbow, (2) using polarized reflectance to estimate above cloud water vapor and total reflectance to find how much near infra-red light is being absorbed in clouds, (3) finding cloud physical thickness from the absorption and cloud top pressure retrievals assuming a saturated mixing ratio for water vapor and (4) determining the cloud droplet number concentration from the physical thickness and droplet size distribution retrievals.

An overview of the polarimetric technique will be presented along with the results of applying the new approach to SABOR campaign data. An analysis of the algorithm’s performance when compared with the HSRL system will be shown. The results will also be compared with other published methods of retrieving CDNC, which assume adiabatic liquid water profiles and droplet number concentrations derived from lidar profiles of extinction.