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  • Author or Editor: John M. Jackson x
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Keith D. Hutchison
Barbara D. Iisager
Thomas J. Kopp
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John M. Jackson


A new approach is presented to distinguish between clouds and heavy aerosols with automated cloud classification algorithms developed for the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) program. These new procedures exploit differences in both spectral and textural signatures between clouds and aerosols to isolate pixels originally classified as cloudy by the Visible/Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) cloud mask algorithm that in reality contains heavy aerosols. The procedures have been tested and found to accurately distinguish clouds from dust, smoke, volcanic ash, and industrial pollution over both land and ocean backgrounds in global datasets collected by NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor. This new methodology relies strongly upon data collected in the 0.412-μm bandpass, where smoke has a maximum reflectance in the VIIRS bands while dust simultaneously has a minimum reflectance. The procedures benefit from the VIIRS design, which is dual gain in this band, to avoid saturation in cloudy conditions. These new procedures also exploit other information available from the VIIRS cloud mask algorithm in addition to cloud confidence, including the phase of each cloudy pixel, which is critical to identify water clouds and restrict the use of spectral tests that would misclassify ice clouds as heavy aerosols. Comparisons between results from these new procedures, automated cloud analyses from VIIRS heritage algorithms, manually generated analyses, and MODIS imagery show the effectiveness of the new procedures and suggest that it is feasible to identify and distinguish between clouds and heavy aerosols in a single cloud mask algorithm.

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