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Timothy A. Berkoff, Mikail Sorokin, Tom Stone, Thomas F. Eck, Raymond Hoff, Ellsworth Welton, and Brent Holben

Abstract

A method is described that enables the use of lunar irradiance to obtain nighttime aerosol optical depth (AOD) measurements using a small-aperture photometer. In this approach, the U.S. Geological Survey lunar calibration system was utilized to provide high-precision lunar exoatmospheric spectral irradiance predictions for a ground-based sensor location, and when combined with ground measurement viewing geometry, provided the column optical transmittance for retrievals of AOD. Automated multiwavelength lunar measurements were obtained using an unmodified Cimel-318 sunphotometer sensor to assess existing capabilities and enhancements needed for day/night operation in NASA’s Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET). Results show that even existing photometers can provide the ability for retrievals of aerosol optical depths at night near full moon. With an additional photodetector signal-to-noise improvement of 10–100, routine use over the bright half of the lunar phase and a much wider range of wavelengths and conditions can be achieved. Although the lunar cycle is expected to limit the frequency of observations to 30%–40% compared to solar measurements, nevertheless this is an attractive extension of AERONET capabilities.

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