Evaluation of MODIS aerosol optical depth for semi-arid environments in complex terrain
Abstract:The use of satellite remote sensing to estimate spatially resolved ground level air pollutant concentrations is increasing due to advancements in remote sensing technology and the limited number of surface observations. Satellite retrievals provide global, spatiotemporal air quality information and are used to track plumes, estimate human exposures, model emissions, and determine sources (i.e., natural versus anthropogenic) in regulatory applications. Ground level PM2.5 concentrations can be estimated using columnar aerosol optical depth (AOD) from MODIS, where the satellite retrieval serves as a spatial surrogate to simulate surface PM2.5 gradients. The spatial statistical models and MODIS AOD retrieval algorithms have been evaluated for the dark, vegetated eastern US, while the semi-arid western US continues to be an understudied region with associated complexity due to heterogeneous emissions, smoke from wildfires, and complex terrain.
The objective of this work is to evaluate the uncertainty of MODIS AOD retrievals by comparing with columnar AOD and surface PM2.5 measurements from AERONET and EPA networks. Data is analyzed from multiple stations in California and Nevada for three years where four major wildfires occurred. Results indicate that MODIS retrievals fail to estimate column-integrated aerosol pollution in the summer months. This is further investigated by quantifying the statistical relationships between MODIS AOD, AERONET AOD, and surface PM2.5 concentrations. Data analysis indicates that the distribution of MODIS AOD is significantly (p<0.05) different than AERONET AOD. Further, using the results of distributional and association analysis the impacts of MODIS AOD uncertainties on the spatial gradients are evaluated. Additionally, the relationships between these uncertainties and physical parameters in the retrieval algorithm (e.g., surface reflectance, Ångström Extinction Exponent) are discussed.