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Cristian Mitrescu and Graeme L. Stephens

Abstract

Cirrus clouds play an important role in the climate through their optical and microphysical properties. The problem with measuring the optical properties of these clouds can be partially addressed by using lidar systems. The calibration of backscatter lidar systems, in particular, typically relies on the known molecular (Rayleigh) backscatter, which is a function of temperature, pressure, and chemical composition of the air. This paper presents an improved method for determining the cloud transmittance, and thus optical depth, derived from backscatter lidar measurements. A system of equations is developed in terms of a proposed metric that is required to possess a minima, and has a unique solution for the gain, offset, and transmittance. The new method is tested on a synthetic case as well as using data from two different lidar systems that operate at two different wavelengths. The method is applied to lidar data collected by the lidar operating at the central Pacific island of Nauru under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program.

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Jason E. Nachamkin, Jerome Schmidt, and Cristian Mitrescu

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Operational cloud forecasts generated by the Coupled Ocean–Atmosphere Mesoscale Prediction System (COAMPS) were verified over the eastern Pacific Ocean. The study focused on the accuracy of cloud forecasts associated with extratropical cyclone and convective activity during the late winter and spring of 2007. The condensed total water (liquid and solid) path was used as a proxy for cloud cover to compare the forecasts with retrievals from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). Analyses of the GOES retrievals indicate that deep cloud systems were generally well represented during daylight hours. Thus, the bulk of the verification focused on the general aspects of quality and timing of these deep systems. Multiple statistics were collected, ranging from simple correlations and histograms to more sophisticated fuzzy and composite statistics. The results show that synoptic-scale systems were generally well predicted to at least two days, with the primary error being an overestimation of deep cloud occurrence. Smaller subsynoptic-scale systems were subject to spatial and timing biases in that a number of the forecasts were lagged by 3–6 h. Despite the bias, 60%–70% of the forecasts of the mesoscale phenomena displayed useful skill.

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Thomas F. Lee, Richard L. Bankert, and Cristian Mitrescu

NASA A-Train vertical profilers provide detailed observations of atmospheric features not seen in traditional imagery from other weather satellite data. CloudSat and Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) profiles vividly depict the vertical dimension of otherwise two-dimensional features shown in mapped products. However, most forecasters have never seen these profiles and do not appreciate their capacity to convey fundamental information about cloud and precipitation systems. Here, these profiles are accompanied by weather satellite images and explained in the context of various meteorological regimes. Profile examples are shown over frontal systems, marine stratocumulus, orographic barriers, tropical cyclones, and a severe thunderstorm.

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Richard L. Bankert, Cristian Mitrescu, Steven D. Miller, and Robert H. Wade

Abstract

Cloud-type classification based on multispectral satellite imagery data has been widely researched and demonstrated to be useful for distinguishing a variety of classes using a wide range of methods. The research described here is a comparison of the classifier output from two very different algorithms applied to Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) data over the course of one year. The first algorithm employs spectral channel thresholding and additional physically based tests. The second algorithm was developed through a supervised learning method with characteristic features of expertly labeled image samples used as training data for a 1-nearest-neighbor classification. The latter’s ability to identify classes is also based in physics, but those relationships are embedded implicitly within the algorithm. A pixel-to-pixel comparison analysis was done for hourly daytime scenes within a region in the northeastern Pacific Ocean. Considerable agreement was found in this analysis, with many of the mismatches or disagreements providing insight to the strengths and limitations of each classifier. Depending upon user needs, a rule-based or other postprocessing system that combines the output from the two algorithms could provide the most reliable cloud-type classification.

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Cristian Mitrescu, Tristan L’Ecuyer, John Haynes, Steven Miller, and Joseph Turk

Abstract

Identifying and quantifying the intensity of light precipitation at global scales is still a difficult problem for most of the remote sensing algorithms in use today. The variety of techniques and algorithms employed for such a task yields a rather wide spectrum of possible values for a given precipitation event, further hampering the understanding of cloud processes within the climate. The ability of CloudSat’s millimeter-wavelength Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) to profile not only cloud particles but also light precipitation brings some hope to the above problems. Introduced as version zero, the present work uses basic concepts of detection and retrieval of light precipitation using spaceborne radars. Based on physical principles of remote sensing, the radar model relies on the description of clouds and rain particles in terms of a drop size distribution function. Use of a numerical model temperature and humidity profile ensures the coexistence of mixed phases otherwise undetected by the CPR. It also provides grounds for evaluating atmospheric attenuation, important at this frequency. Related to the total attenuation, the surface response is used as an additional constraint in the retrieval algorithm. Practical application of the profiling algorithm includes a 1-yr preliminary analysis of global rainfall incidence and intensity. These results underscore once more the role of CloudSat rainfall products for improving and enhancing current estimates of global light rainfall, mostly at higher latitudes, with the goal of understanding its role in the global energy and water cycle.

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Cristian Mitrescu, Steven Miller, Jeffrey Hawkins, Tristan L’Ecuyer, Joseph Turk, Philip Partain, and Graeme Stephens

Abstract

Within 2 months of its launch in April 2006 as part of the Earth Observing System A-Train satellite constellation, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) CloudSat mission began making significant contributions toward broadening the understanding of detailed cloud vertical structures around the earth. Realizing the potential benefit of CloudSat to both the research objectives and operational requirements of the U.S. Navy, the Naval Research Laboratory coordinated early on with the CloudSat Data Processing Center to receive and process first-look 94-GHz Cloud Profiling Radar datasets in near–real time (4–8 h latency), thereby making the observations more relevant to the operational community. Applications leveraging these unique data, described herein, include 1) analysis/validation of cloud structure and properties derived from conventional passive radiometers, 2) tropical cyclone vertical structure analysis, 3) support of research field programs, 4) validation of numerical weather prediction model cloud fields, and 5) quantitative precipitation estimation in light rainfall regimes.

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Norman G. Loeb, David R. Doelling, Hailan Wang, Wenying Su, Cathy Nguyen, Joseph G. Corbett, Lusheng Liang, Cristian Mitrescu, Fred G. Rose, and Seiji Kato

Abstract

The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) Energy Balanced and Filled (EBAF) top-of-atmosphere (TOA), Edition 4.0 (Ed4.0), data product is described. EBAF Ed4.0 is an update to EBAF Ed2.8, incorporating all of the Ed4.0 suite of CERES data product algorithm improvements and consistent input datasets throughout the record. A one-time adjustment to shortwave (SW) and longwave (LW) TOA fluxes is made to ensure that global mean net TOA flux for July 2005–June 2015 is consistent with the in situ value of 0.71 W m−2. While global mean all-sky TOA flux differences between Ed4.0 and Ed2.8 are within 0.5 W m−2, appreciable SW regional differences occur over marine stratocumulus and snow/sea ice regions. Marked regional differences in SW clear-sky TOA flux occur in polar regions and dust areas over ocean. Clear-sky LW TOA fluxes in EBAF Ed4.0 exceed Ed2.8 in regions of persistent high cloud cover. Owing to substantial differences in global mean clear-sky TOA fluxes, the net cloud radiative effect in EBAF Ed4.0 is −18 W m−2 compared to −21 W m−2 in EBAF Ed2.8. The overall uncertainty in 1° × 1° latitude–longitude regional monthly all-sky TOA flux is estimated to be 3 W m−2 [one standard deviation (1σ)] for the Terra-only period and 2.5 W m−2 for the TerraAqua period both for SW and LW fluxes. The SW clear-sky regional monthly flux uncertainty is estimated to be 6 W m−2 for the Terra-only period and 5 W m−2 for the TerraAqua period. The LW clear-sky regional monthly flux uncertainty is 5 W m−2 for Terra only and 4.5 W m−2 for TerraAqua.

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Steven D. Miller, John M. Forsythe, Philip T. Partain, John M. Haynes, Richard L. Bankert, Manajit Sengupta, Cristian Mitrescu, Jeffrey D. Hawkins, and Thomas H. Vonder Haar

Abstract

The launch of the NASA CloudSat in April 2006 enabled the first satellite-based global observation of vertically resolved cloud information. However, CloudSat’s nonscanning W-band (94 GHz) Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) provides only a nadir cross section, or “curtain,” of the atmosphere along the satellite ground track, precluding a full three-dimensional (3D) characterization and thus limiting its utility for certain model verification and cloud-process studies. This paper details an algorithm for extending a limited set of vertically resolved cloud observations to form regional 3D cloud structure. Predicated on the assumption that clouds of the same type (e.g., cirrus, cumulus, and stratocumulus) often share geometric and microphysical properties as well, the algorithm identifies cloud-type-dependent correlations and uses them to estimate cloud-base height and liquid/ice water content vertical structure. These estimates, when combined with conventional retrievals of cloud-top height, result in a 3D structure for the topmost cloud layer. The technique was developed on multiyear CloudSat data and applied to Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) swath data from the NASA Aqua satellite. Data-exclusion experiments along the CloudSat ground track show improved predictive skill over both climatology and type-independent nearest-neighbor estimates. More important, the statistical methods, which employ a dynamic range-dependent weighting scheme, were also found to outperform type-dependent near-neighbor estimates. Application to the 3D cloud rendering of a tropical cyclone is demonstrated.

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THE CLOUDSAT MISSION AND THE A-TRAIN

A New Dimension of Space-Based Observations of Clouds and Precipitation

Graeme L. Stephens, Deborah G. Vane, Ronald J. Boain, Gerald G. Mace, Kenneth Sassen, Zhien Wang, Anthony J. Illingworth, Ewan J. O'connor, William B. Rossow, Stephen L. Durden, Steven D. Miller, Richard T. Austin, Angela Benedetti, Cristian Mitrescu, and the CloudSat Science Team

CloudSat is a satellite experiment designed to measure the vertical structure of clouds from space. The expected launch of CloudSat is planned for 2004, and once launched, CloudSat will orbit in formation as part of a constellation of satellites (the A-Train) that includes NASA's Aqua and Aura satellites, a NASA–CNES lidar satellite (CALIPSO), and a CNES satellite carrying a polarimeter (PARASOL). A unique feature that CloudSat brings to this constellation is the ability to fly a precise orbit enabling the fields of view of the CloudSat radar to be overlapped with the CALIPSO lidar footprint and the other measurements of the constellation. The precision and near simultaneity of this overlap creates a unique multisatellite observing system for studying the atmospheric processes essential to the hydrological cycle.

The vertical profiles of cloud properties provided by CloudSat on the global scale fill a critical gap in the investigation of feedback mechanisms linking clouds to climate. Measuring these profiles requires a combination of active and passive instruments, and this will be achieved by combining the radar data of CloudSat with data from other active and passive sensors of the constellation. This paper describes the underpinning science and general overview of the mission, provides some idea of the expected products and anticipated application of these products, and the potential capability of the A-Train for cloud observations. Notably, the CloudSat mission is expected to stimulate new areas of research on clouds. The mission also provides an important opportunity to demonstrate active sensor technology for future scientific and tactical applications. The CloudSat mission is a partnership between NASA's JPL, the Canadian Space Agency, Colorado State University, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Department of Energy.

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