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Assessment of the Visible Channel Calibrations of the VIRS on TRMM and MODIS on Aqua and Terra

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  • 1 Climate Sciences Branch, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
  • | 2 Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Hampton, Virginia
  • | 3 Hampton University, Hampton, Virginia
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Abstract

Several recent research satellites carry self-calibrating multispectral imagers that can be used for calibrating operational imagers lacking complete self-calibrating capabilities. In particular, the visible (VIS, 0.65 μm) channels on operational meteorological satellites are generally calibrated before launch, but require vicarious calibration techniques to monitor the gains and offsets once they are in orbit. To ensure that the self-calibrating instruments are performing as expected, this paper examines the consistencies between the VIS channel (channel 1) reflectances of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites and the version 5a and 6 reflectances of the Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS) on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission using a variety of techniques. These include comparisons of Terra and Aqua VIS radiances with coincident broadband shortwave radiances from the well-calibrated Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), time series of deep convective cloud (DCC) albedos, and ray-matching intercalibrations between each of the three satellites. Time series of matched Terra and VIRS data, Aqua and VIRS data, and DCC reflected fluxes reveal that an older version (version 5a, ending in early 2004) of the VIRS calibration produced a highly stable record, while the latest version (version 6) appears to overestimate the sensor gain change by ∼1% yr−1 as the result of a manually induced gain adjustment. Comparisons with the CERES shortwave radiances unearthed a sudden change in the Terra MODIS calibration that caused a 1.17% decrease in the gain on 19 November 2003 that can be easily reversed. After correction for these manual adjustments, the trends in the VIRS and Terra channels are no greater than 0.1% yr−1. Although the results were more ambiguous, no statistically significant trends were found in the Aqua MODIS channel 1 gain. The Aqua radiances are 1% greater, on average, than their Terra counterparts, and after normalization are 4.6% greater than VIRS radiances, in agreement with theoretical calculations. The discrepancy between the two MODIS instruments should be taken into account to ensure consistency between parameters derived from them. With the adjustments, any of the three instruments can serve as references for calibrating other satellites. Monitoring of the calibrations continues in near–real time and the results are available via the World Wide Web.

Corresponding author address: Patrick Minnis, Climate Sciences Branch, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681. Email: patrick.minnis-1@nasa.gov

Abstract

Several recent research satellites carry self-calibrating multispectral imagers that can be used for calibrating operational imagers lacking complete self-calibrating capabilities. In particular, the visible (VIS, 0.65 μm) channels on operational meteorological satellites are generally calibrated before launch, but require vicarious calibration techniques to monitor the gains and offsets once they are in orbit. To ensure that the self-calibrating instruments are performing as expected, this paper examines the consistencies between the VIS channel (channel 1) reflectances of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites and the version 5a and 6 reflectances of the Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS) on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission using a variety of techniques. These include comparisons of Terra and Aqua VIS radiances with coincident broadband shortwave radiances from the well-calibrated Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES), time series of deep convective cloud (DCC) albedos, and ray-matching intercalibrations between each of the three satellites. Time series of matched Terra and VIRS data, Aqua and VIRS data, and DCC reflected fluxes reveal that an older version (version 5a, ending in early 2004) of the VIRS calibration produced a highly stable record, while the latest version (version 6) appears to overestimate the sensor gain change by ∼1% yr−1 as the result of a manually induced gain adjustment. Comparisons with the CERES shortwave radiances unearthed a sudden change in the Terra MODIS calibration that caused a 1.17% decrease in the gain on 19 November 2003 that can be easily reversed. After correction for these manual adjustments, the trends in the VIRS and Terra channels are no greater than 0.1% yr−1. Although the results were more ambiguous, no statistically significant trends were found in the Aqua MODIS channel 1 gain. The Aqua radiances are 1% greater, on average, than their Terra counterparts, and after normalization are 4.6% greater than VIRS radiances, in agreement with theoretical calculations. The discrepancy between the two MODIS instruments should be taken into account to ensure consistency between parameters derived from them. With the adjustments, any of the three instruments can serve as references for calibrating other satellites. Monitoring of the calibrations continues in near–real time and the results are available via the World Wide Web.

Corresponding author address: Patrick Minnis, Climate Sciences Branch, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681. Email: patrick.minnis-1@nasa.gov

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