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Colten A. Peterson, Qing Yue, Brian H. Kahn, Eric Fetzer, and Xianglei Huang

Abstract

Cloud phase retrievals from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) are evaluated against combined CloudSat–CALIPSO (CCL) observations using four years of data (2007–10) over the Arctic Ocean. AIRS cloud phase is evaluated over sea ice and open ocean separately using collocated CCL and AIRS fields of view (FOVs). In addition, AIRS and CCL cloud phase occurrences are evaluated seasonally, zonally, and with respect to total column water vapor (TCWV) and the temperature difference between 1000 and 300 hPa (ΔT 1000−300). Last, collocated MODIS cloud information is implemented in a 1-month case study to assess the relationship between AIRS and CCL phase decisions, cloud cover, and cloud phase throughout the AIRS FOV. Depending on the surface type, AIRS classification skill for single-layer ice and liquid-phase clouds is over the ranges of 85%–95% and 22%–32%, respectively. Most unknown and liquid AIRS phase classifications correspond to mixed-phase clouds. AIRS ice-phase relative occurrence is biased low relative to CCL. However, the liquid-phase relative occurrence is similar between the two instruments. When compared with the CCL climatology, AIRS accurately represents the seasonal cycle of liquid and ice cloud phase across the Arctic as well as the relationship between cloud phase and TCWV and ΔT 1000−300 regime in some cases. The more heterogeneous the MODIS cloud macrophysical properties within an AIRS FOV are, the more likely it is that the AIRS FOV is classified as unknown phase.

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Tristan S. L’Ecuyer, Brian J. Drouin, James Anheuser, Meredith Grames, David S. Henderson, Xianglei Huang, Brian H. Kahn, Jennifer E. Kay, Boon H. Lim, Marian Mateling, Aronne Merrelli, Nathaniel B. Miller, Sharmila Padmanabhan, Colten Peterson, Nicole-Jeanne Schlegel, Mary L. White, and Yan Xie

Abstract

Earth’s climate is strongly influenced by energy deficits at the poles that emit more thermal energy than they receive from the sun. Energy exchanges between the surface and atmosphere influence the local environment while heat transport from lower latitudes drives midlatitude atmospheric and oceanic circulations. In the Arctic, in particular, local energy imbalances induce strong seasonality in surface–atmosphere heat exchanges and an acute sensitivity to forced climate variations. Despite these important local and global influences, the largest contributions to the polar atmospheric and surface energy budgets have not been fully characterized. The spectral variation of far-infrared radiation that makes up 60% of polar thermal emission has never been systematically measured impeding progress toward consensus in predicted rates of Arctic warming, sea ice decline, and ice sheet melt. Enabled by recent advances in sensor miniaturization and CubeSat technology, the Polar Radiant Energy in the Far Infrared Experiment (PREFIRE) mission will document, for the first time, the spectral, spatial, and temporal variations of polar far-infrared emission. Selected under NASA’s Earth Ventures Instrument (EVI) program, PREFIRE will utilize new lightweight, low-power, ambient temperature detectors capable of measuring at wavelengths up to 50 μm to quantify Earth’s far-infrared spectrum. Estimates of spectral surface emissivity, water vapor, cloud properties, and the atmospheric greenhouse effect derived from these measurements offer the potential to advance our understanding of the factors that modulate thermal fluxes in the cold, dry conditions characteristic of the polar regions.

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