A Physical Method for the Calibration of the AVHRR/3 Thermal IR Channels 1: The Prelaunch Calibration Data

Jonathan P. D. Mittaz CICS/ESSIC, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Andrew R. Harris CICS/ESSIC, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, Maryland

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Jerry T. Sullivan Short and Associates, Inc., Chevy Chase, Maryland

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Abstract

The absolute accuracy of the thermal infrared (IR) radiances and brightness temperatures derived from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) is still unknown, with major sources of error not yet fully understood. This is despite the fact that data from the AVHRR IR channels are widely used in deriving important atmospheric and surface parameters as well as in weather prediction, climate modeling, and other environmental studies. Central to the problem are possible errors introduced by the calibration test procedures and methodologies that can range up to approximately 0.5 K, much larger than the instrument electronic and detector noise characteristics. Further, there are known issues with the current calibration including a large mismatch of up to 0.7 K between the measured physical temperature of the internal calibration target (ICT) and its radiometric temperature estimated by using the AVHRR-observed counts. In an effort to improve this, a new approach to the calibration has been adopted that is dependent on physical instrument parameters. It is shown that this new calibration method can explain the ICT temperature mismatch as a combination of an incorrect assumption that the AVHRR was kept at a constant temperature during testing combined with the effect of scattered radiation from the test chamber and other sources. This new calibration also reduces the total biases and errors that exist when using the current operational calibration on the prelaunch data. Comparing the external calibration target temperatures to the temperatures derived using the AVHRR measurements, this new calibration can reduce an up to 0.7-K bias seen currently to an essentially zero bias with a scatter of less than 0.05 K in the SST regime. This marks an improvement of up to an order of magnitude in accuracy over the current operational calibration.

Corresponding author address: Jonathan Mittaz, CICS/ESSIC, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD 20742. Email: Jon.Mittaz@noaa.gov

Abstract

The absolute accuracy of the thermal infrared (IR) radiances and brightness temperatures derived from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) is still unknown, with major sources of error not yet fully understood. This is despite the fact that data from the AVHRR IR channels are widely used in deriving important atmospheric and surface parameters as well as in weather prediction, climate modeling, and other environmental studies. Central to the problem are possible errors introduced by the calibration test procedures and methodologies that can range up to approximately 0.5 K, much larger than the instrument electronic and detector noise characteristics. Further, there are known issues with the current calibration including a large mismatch of up to 0.7 K between the measured physical temperature of the internal calibration target (ICT) and its radiometric temperature estimated by using the AVHRR-observed counts. In an effort to improve this, a new approach to the calibration has been adopted that is dependent on physical instrument parameters. It is shown that this new calibration method can explain the ICT temperature mismatch as a combination of an incorrect assumption that the AVHRR was kept at a constant temperature during testing combined with the effect of scattered radiation from the test chamber and other sources. This new calibration also reduces the total biases and errors that exist when using the current operational calibration on the prelaunch data. Comparing the external calibration target temperatures to the temperatures derived using the AVHRR measurements, this new calibration can reduce an up to 0.7-K bias seen currently to an essentially zero bias with a scatter of less than 0.05 K in the SST regime. This marks an improvement of up to an order of magnitude in accuracy over the current operational calibration.

Corresponding author address: Jonathan Mittaz, CICS/ESSIC, University of Maryland, College Park, College Park, MD 20742. Email: Jon.Mittaz@noaa.gov

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