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Daytime Global Cloud Typing from AVHRR and VIIRS: Algorithm Description, Validation, and Comparisons

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  • a Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • | b NOAA/NESDIS Office of Research and Applications, Madison, Wisconsin
  • | c Environmental Technology Laboratory, NOAA, Boulder, Colorado
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Abstract

Three multispectral algorithms for determining the cloud type of previously identified cloudy pixels during the daytime, using satellite imager data, are presented. Two algorithms were developed for use with 0.65-, 1.6-/3.75-, 10.8-, and 12.0-μm data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operational polar-orbiting satellites. The AVHRR algorithms are identical except for the near-infrared data that are used. One algorithm uses AVHRR channel 3a (1.6 μm) reflectances, and the other uses AVHRR channel 3b (3.75 μm) reflectance estimates. Both of these algorithms are necessary because the AVHRRs on NOAA-15 through NOAA-17 have the capability to transmit either channel 3a or 3b data during the day, whereas all of the other AVHRRs on NOAA-7 through NOAA-14 can only transmit channel 3b data. The two AVHRR cloud-typing schemes are used operationally in NOAA’s extended Clouds from AVHRR (CLAVR)-x processing system. The third algorithm utilizes additional spectral bands in the 1.38- and 8.5-μm regions of the spectrum that are available on the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and will be available on the Visible–Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The VIIRS will eventually replace the AVHRR on board the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is currently scheduled to be launched in 2009. Five cloud-type categories are employed: warm liquid water, supercooled water–mixed phase, opaque ice, nonopaque high ice (cirrus), and cloud overlap (multiple cloud layers). Each algorithm was qualitatively evaluated through scene analysis and then validated against inferences of cloud type that were derived from ground-based observations of clouds at the three primary Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program sites to help to assess the potential continuity of a combined AVHRR channel 3a–AVHRR channel 3b–VIIRS cloud-type climatology. In this paper, “validation” is strictly defined as comparisons with ground-based estimates that are completely independent of the satellite retrievals. It was determined that the two AVHRR algorithms produce nearly identical results except for certain thin clouds and cloud edges. The AVHRR 3a algorithm tends to incorrectly classify the thin edges of some low- and midlevel clouds as cirrus and opaque ice more often than the AVHRR 3b algorithm. The additional techniques implemented in the VIIRS algorithm result in a significant improvement in the identification of cirrus clouds, cloud overlap, and overall phase identification of thin clouds, as compared with the capabilities of the AVHRR algorithms presented in this paper.

Corresponding author address: Michael Pavolonis, 1225 West Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. mpav@ssec.wisc.edu

Abstract

Three multispectral algorithms for determining the cloud type of previously identified cloudy pixels during the daytime, using satellite imager data, are presented. Two algorithms were developed for use with 0.65-, 1.6-/3.75-, 10.8-, and 12.0-μm data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on board the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) operational polar-orbiting satellites. The AVHRR algorithms are identical except for the near-infrared data that are used. One algorithm uses AVHRR channel 3a (1.6 μm) reflectances, and the other uses AVHRR channel 3b (3.75 μm) reflectance estimates. Both of these algorithms are necessary because the AVHRRs on NOAA-15 through NOAA-17 have the capability to transmit either channel 3a or 3b data during the day, whereas all of the other AVHRRs on NOAA-7 through NOAA-14 can only transmit channel 3b data. The two AVHRR cloud-typing schemes are used operationally in NOAA’s extended Clouds from AVHRR (CLAVR)-x processing system. The third algorithm utilizes additional spectral bands in the 1.38- and 8.5-μm regions of the spectrum that are available on the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and will be available on the Visible–Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). The VIIRS will eventually replace the AVHRR on board the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS), which is currently scheduled to be launched in 2009. Five cloud-type categories are employed: warm liquid water, supercooled water–mixed phase, opaque ice, nonopaque high ice (cirrus), and cloud overlap (multiple cloud layers). Each algorithm was qualitatively evaluated through scene analysis and then validated against inferences of cloud type that were derived from ground-based observations of clouds at the three primary Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program sites to help to assess the potential continuity of a combined AVHRR channel 3a–AVHRR channel 3b–VIIRS cloud-type climatology. In this paper, “validation” is strictly defined as comparisons with ground-based estimates that are completely independent of the satellite retrievals. It was determined that the two AVHRR algorithms produce nearly identical results except for certain thin clouds and cloud edges. The AVHRR 3a algorithm tends to incorrectly classify the thin edges of some low- and midlevel clouds as cirrus and opaque ice more often than the AVHRR 3b algorithm. The additional techniques implemented in the VIIRS algorithm result in a significant improvement in the identification of cirrus clouds, cloud overlap, and overall phase identification of thin clouds, as compared with the capabilities of the AVHRR algorithms presented in this paper.

Corresponding author address: Michael Pavolonis, 1225 West Dayton St., Madison, WI 53706. mpav@ssec.wisc.edu

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