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Robert Pincus
,
Malgorzata Szczodrak
,
Jiujing Gu
, and
Philip Austin

Abstract

The uncertainty in optical depths retrieved from satellite measurements of visible wavelength radiance at the top of the atmosphere is quantified. Techniques are briefly reviewed for the estimation of optical depth from measurements of radiance, and it is noted that these estimates are always more uncertain at greater optical depths and larger solar zenith angles. The lack of radiometric calibration for visible wavelength imagers on operational satellites dominates the uncertainty retrievals of optical depth. This is true for both single-pixel retrievals and for statistics calculated from a population of individual retrievals. For individual estimates or small samples, sensor discretization (especially for the VAS instrument) can also be significant, but the sensitivity of the retrieval to the specification of the model atmosphere is less important. The relative uncertainty in calibration affects the accuracy with which optical depth distributions measured by different sensors may be quantitatively compared, while the absolute calibration uncertainty, acting through the nonlinear mapping of radiance to optical depth, limits the degree to which distributions measured by the same sensor may be distinguished.

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Bingkun Luo
,
Peter J. Minnett
,
Malgorzata Szczodrak
,
Nicholas R. Nalli
, and
Vernon R. Morris

Abstract

Satellite and in situ measurements of the sea surface and the atmosphere often have inadequate sampling frequencies and often lack consistent global coverage. Because of such limitations, reanalysis model output is frequently used in atmospheric and oceanographic research endeavors to complement satellite and in situ data. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Goddard Earth Sciences Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications version 2 (MERRA-2) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) interim reanalysis (ERA-Interim) datasets provide accurate, complete fields through the assimilation of many atmospheric and surface observations. Still, the reanalysis output data must be rigorously and continuously evaluated to understand their strengths and weaknesses. To this end, this study evaluates sea surface skin temperature (SSTskin) and atmospheric temperature and humidity profiles in MERRA-2 and ERA-Interim data through comparisons with independent Marine-Atmospheric Emitted Radiance Interferometer (M-AERI) and radiosonde data from the Aerosols and Ocean Science Expeditions (AEROSE) cruises, focusing on the representation of spatial and temporal variability. SSTskin values are generally in good agreement with corresponding M-AERI measurements, with the average differences on the order of 0.1 K. Comparisons between MERRA-2 and ERA-Interim relative humidity and air temperature profiles with a total of 553 radiosondes that have been withheld from data assimilation schemes show good correspondence below 500 hPa: the average air temperature difference is <2 K and the average relative humidity discrepancy is within 10%. These results support the use of these MERRA-2 and ERA-Interim reanalysis fields in a variety of research applications.

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