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Kirk D. Knobelspiesse, Christophe Pietras, and Giulietta S. Fargion


Handheld sun photometers, such as the MICROTOPS II (manufactured by Solar Light, Inc.), provide a simple and inexpensive way to measure in situ aerosol optical thickness (AOT), ozone content, and water vapor. Handheld sun photometers require that the user manually point the instrument at the sun. Unstable platforms, such as a ship at sea, can make this difficult. A poorly pointed instrument mistakenly records less than the full direct solar radiance, so the computed AOT is much higher than reality. The NASA Sensor Intercomparison and Merger for Biological and Interdisciplinary Oceanic Studies (SIMBIOS) Project has been collecting maritime AOT data since 1997. As the dataset grew, a bias of the MICROTOPS II data with respect to other instrument data was noticed. This bias was attributed to the MICROTOPS II measurement protocol, which is intended for land-based measurements and does not remove pointing errors when used at sea. Based upon suggestions in previous literature, two steps were taken to reduce pointing errors. First, the measurement protocol was changed to keep the maximum (rather than average) voltage of a sequence of measurements. Once on shore, a second screening algorithm was utilized to iteratively reject outliers that represent sun-pointing errors. Several versions of this method were tested on a recent California Cooperative Oceanic Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) cruise, and were compared to concurrent measurements using the manufacturer-supplied protocol. Finally, a separate postprocessing algorithm was created for data previously gathered with the manufacturer-supplied protocol, based on statistics calculated by the instrument at the time of capture.

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P. Jeremy Werdell, Michael J. Behrenfeld, Paula S. Bontempi, Emmanuel Boss, Brian Cairns, Gary T. Davis, Bryan A. Franz, Ulrik B. Gliese, Eric T. Gorman, Otto Hasekamp, Kirk D. Knobelspiesse, Antonio Mannino, J. Vanderlei Martins, Charles R. McClain, Gerhard Meister, and Lorraine A. Remer


The Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission represents the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) next investment in satellite ocean color and the study of Earth’s ocean–atmosphere system, enabling new insights into oceanographic and atmospheric responses to Earth’s changing climate. PACE objectives include extending systematic cloud, aerosol, and ocean biological and biogeochemical data records, making essential ocean color measurements to further understand marine carbon cycles, food-web processes, and ecosystem responses to a changing climate, and improving knowledge of how aerosols influence ocean ecosystems and, conversely, how ocean ecosystems and photochemical processes affect the atmosphere. PACE objectives also encompass management of fisheries, large freshwater bodies, and air and water quality and reducing uncertainties in climate and radiative forcing models of the Earth system. PACE observations will provide information on radiative properties of land surfaces and characterization of the vegetation and soils that dominate their reflectance. The primary PACE instrument is a spectrometer that spans the ultraviolet to shortwave-infrared wavelengths, with a ground sample distance of 1 km at nadir. This payload is complemented by two multiangle polarimeters with spectral ranges that span the visible to near-infrared region. Scheduled for launch in late 2022 to early 2023, the PACE observatory will enable significant advances in the study of Earth’s biogeochemistry, carbon cycle, clouds, hydrosols, and aerosols in the ocean–atmosphere–land system. Here, we present an overview of the PACE mission, including its developmental history, science objectives, instrument payload, observatory characteristics, and data products.

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