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Rene Preusker
and
Rasmus Lindstrot

Abstract

Reflected solar radiation measured by the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on the Environmental Satellite (Envisat) is currently used within the European Space Agency’s ground segment for the retrieval of cloud-top pressure. The algorithm is based on the analysis of the gaseous absorption of solar radiation in the oxygen A band at 761 nm. The strength of absorption is directly related to the average photon pathlength, which is mainly determined by the cloud-top pressure. However, it additionally depends on surface and cloud properties, like cloud thickness and microphysics. The interpretation of the measurements is further complicated by the temperature dependence of the absorption line shapes and the sensitivity to the spectral properties of the spectrometer like spectral position and width. This paper is focused on results of sensitivity studies using the Matrix Operator Model (MOMO) radiative transfer model that examine the most important parameters affecting the measurements of MERIS or similar instruments. The cloud-top pressure retrieval scheme is briefly presented. An analysis of the information content and the degrees of freedom of measurements within the oxygen A band is included in this study.

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Rasmus Lindstrot
,
Rene Preusker
, and
Jürgen Fischer

Abstract

A novel and unique algorithm for the retrieval of multilayer cloud-top pressure is presented, relying on synergetic observations of the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) and Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) on board the Environmental Satellite (Envisat). The retrieval is based on the exploitation of the differing signals observed in the thermal infrared spectral region (AATSR) and the oxygen A band at 0.76 μm (MERIS). Past studies have shown that the cloud-top pressure retrieved from MERIS measurements is highly accurate in the case of low single-layered clouds. In contrast, in the presence of multilayered clouds like cirrus overlying water clouds, the derived cloud height is biased. In this framework, an optimal estimation algorithm for the correction of the measured O2 A transmission for the influence of the upper cloud layer was developed. The algorithm is best applicable in cases of optically thin cirrus (1 ≤ τ ≤ 5) above optically thick water clouds (τ > 5), as found frequently in the vicinity of convective or frontal cloud systems. The split-window brightness temperature difference technique is used for the identification of suitable cases. The sensitivities of the AATSR and MERIS measurements to multilayered clouds are presented and discussed, revealing that in the case of dual-layered clouds, the AATSR-derived cloud height is close to the upper cloud layer, even if it is optically thin. In contrast, the cloud height retrieved from MERIS measurements represents the optical center of the cloud system, which is close to the lower layer in cases where the upper layer is optically thin. Two case studies of convective, multilayered cloud systems above the northern Atlantic Ocean are shown, demonstrating the plausibility of the approach. The presented work is relevant especially in view of the upcoming Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Sentinel-3 satellite to be launched in 2012 that will carry the respective MERIS and AATSR follow-up instruments Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) and Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR).

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Sabrina Schnitt
,
Ulrich Löhnert
, and
René Preusker

Abstract

High-resolution boundary layer water vapor profile observations are essential for understanding the interplay between shallow convection, cloudiness, and climate in the trade wind atmosphere. As current observation techniques can be limited by low spatial or temporal resolution, the synergistic benefit of combining ground-based microwave radiometer (MWR) and dual-frequency radar is investigated by analyzing the retrieval information content and uncertainty. Synthetic MWR brightness temperatures, as well as simulated dual-wavelength ratios of two radar frequencies are generated for a combination of Ka and W band (KaW), as well as differential absorption radar (DAR) G-band frequencies (167 and 174.8 GHz, G2). The synergy analysis is based on an optimal estimation scheme by varying the configuration of the observation vector. Combining MWR and KaW only marginally increases the retrieval information content. The synergy of MWR with G2 radar is more beneficial due to increasing degrees of freedom (4.5), decreasing retrieval errors, and a more realistic retrieved profile within the cloud layer. The information and profile below and within the cloud is driven by the radar observations, whereas the synergistic benefit is largest above the cloud layer, where information content is enhanced compared to an MWR-only or DAR-only setup. For full synergistic benefits, however, G-band radar sensitivities need to allow full-cloud profiling; in this case, the results suggest that a combined retrieval of MWR and G-band DAR can help close the observational gap of current techniques.

Open access
Rasmus Lindstrot
,
Rene Preusker
, and
Jürgen Fischer

Abstract

Spaceborne spectrometers like the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on board the Environmental Satellite (Envisat) are widely used for the remote sensing of atmospheric and oceanic properties and make an important contribution to the monitoring of the earth’s atmosphere system. To enable retrievals with high accuracy, the spectral and radiometric properties of the instruments have to be characterized with high precision. One of the main sources of radiometric errors is stray light caused by multiple reflections and scattering at the optical elements within the instruments. If not corrected for properly, the stray light–induced offsets of measured intensity can lead to significant errors in the derived parameters. The effect of stray light is particularly momentous in the case of measurements inside strong absorption bands like the oxygen A band at 0.76 μm or the ρστ absorption band of water vapor around 0.9 μm. For example, the retrieval of surface and cloud-top pressure from MERIS measurements in the O2 A band can be biased because of an insufficient correction of stray light in the operational processing chain.

To correct for the residual stray light influence after the operational stray light correction in the O2 A-band channel of MERIS, an empirical stray light correction of the measured radiance at 0.76 μm has been developed based on optimizing the coefficients of a simple brightness-dependent stray light model. The optimal model coefficients were found by adjusting the retrievals of surface and cloud-top pressure to accurate reference data for several selected scenes. To account for the limited accuracy of the MERIS spectral calibration, the center wavelength of the O2 A-band channel was additionally adjusted within a ±0.1-nm tolerance range. The correction was tested on a variety of clear and cloudy scenes at different locations by applying the surface and cloud-top pressure retrieval algorithms to data recorded over the whole lifetime of MERIS. The results indicate the potential to greatly improve the accuracy of the retrieved pressure values using the proposed correction factors.

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Rasmus Lindstrot
,
Rene Preusker
, and
Jürgen Fischer

Abstract

Measurements of the Medium-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on the Environmental Satellite (Envisat) are used for the retrieval of surface pressure above land and ice surfaces. The algorithm is based on the exploitation of gaseous absorption in the oxygen A band at 762 nm. The strength of absorption is directly related to the average photon pathlength, which in clear-sky cases above bright surfaces is mainly determined by the surface pressure, with minor influences from scattering at aerosols.

Sensitivity studies regarding the influences of aerosol optical thickness and scale height and the temperature profile on the measured radiances are presented. Additionally, the sensitivity of the retrieval to the accuracy of the spectral characterization of MERIS is quantified. The algorithm for the retrieval of surface pressure (SPFUB) is presented and validated against surface pressure maps constructed from ECMWF sea level pressure forecasts in combination with digital elevation model data. The accuracy of SPFUB was found to be within 10 hPa above ice surfaces at Greenland and 15 hPa above desert and mountain scenes in northern Africa and southwest Asia. In a case study above Greenland the accuracy of SPFUB could be enhanced to be better than 3 hPa by spatial averaging over areas of 40 km × 40 km.

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Jérôme Vidot
,
Ralf Bennartz
,
Christopher W. O’Dell
,
René Preusker
,
Rasmus Lindstrot
, and
Andrew K. Heidinger

Abstract

Spectral characteristics of the future Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) sensor, which will be launched in January 2009, were used to infer the carbon dioxide column-averaged mixing ratio over liquid water clouds over ocean by means of radiative transfer simulations and an inversion process based on optimal estimation theory. Before retrieving the carbon dioxide column-averaged mixing ratio over clouds, cloud properties such as cloud optical depth, cloud effective radius, and cloud-top pressure must be known. Cloud properties were not included in the prior in the inversion but are retrieved within the algorithm. The high spectral resolution of the OCO bands in the oxygen absorption spectral region around 0.76 μm, the weak CO2 absorption band around 1.61 μm, and the strong CO2 absorption band around 2.06 μm were used. The retrieval of all parameters relied on an optimal estimation technique that allows an objective selection of the channels needed to reach OCO’s requirement accuracy. The errors due to the radiometric noise, uncertainties in temperature profile, surface pressure, spectral shift, and presence of cirrus above the liquid water clouds were quantified. Cirrus clouds and spectral shifts are the major sources of errors in the retrieval. An accurate spectral characterization of the OCO bands and an effective mask for pixels contaminated by cirrus would mostly eliminate these errors.

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Jean-Louis Brenguier
,
Hanna Pawlowska
,
Lothar Schüller
,
Rene Preusker
,
Jürgen Fischer
, and
Yves Fouquart

Abstract

The plane-parallel model for the parameterization of clouds in global climate models is examined in order to estimate the effects of the vertical profile of the microphysical parameters on radiative transfer calculations for extended boundary layer clouds. The vertically uniform model is thus compared to the adiabatic stratified one. The validation of the adiabatic model is based on simultaneous measurements of cloud microphysical parameters in situ and cloud radiative properties from above the cloud layer with a multispectral radiometer. In particular, the observations demonstrate that the dependency of cloud optical thickness on cloud geometrical thickness is larger than predicted with the vertically uniform model and that it is in agreement with the prediction of the adiabatic one. Numerical simulations of the radiative transfer have been performed to establish the equivalence between the two models in terms of the effective radius. They show that the equivalent effective radius of a vertically uniform model is between 80% and 100% of the effective radius at the top of an adiabatic stratified model. The relationship depends, in fact, upon the cloud geometrical thickness and droplet concentration. Remote sensing measurements of cloud radiances in the visible and near infrared are then examined at the scale of a cloud system for a marine case and the most polluted case sampled during the second Aerosol Characterization Experiment. The distributions of the measured values are significantly different between the two cases. This constitutes observational evidence of the aerosol indirect effect at the scale of a cloud system. Finally, the adiabatic stratified model is used to develop a procedure for the retrieval of cloud geometrical thickness and cloud droplet number concentration from the measurements of cloud radiances. It is applied to the marine and to the polluted cases. The retrieved values of droplet concentration are significantly underestimated with respect to the values measured in situ. Despite this discrepancy the procedure is efficient at distinguishing the difference between the two cases.

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Rasmus Lindstrot
,
Rene Preusker
,
Thomas Ruhtz
,
Birgit Heese
,
Matthias Wiegner
,
Carsten Lindemann
, and
Jürgen Fischer

Abstract

The results of a validation of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) operational Medium-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) cloud-top pressure (CTP) product by airborne lidar measurements are presented. MERIS, mounted on the polar-orbiting ESA Environmental Satellite (ENVISAT), provides radiance measurements within the oxygen A absorption band around 761 nm. The exploitation of these data allows the retrieval of CTP. The validation flights were performed in the northeastern part of Germany between April and June 2004 and were temporally and spatially synchronized with the ENVISAT overpasses. The Cessna 207T of the Freie Universität Berlin was equipped with the portable lidar system (POLIS) of the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München and a GPS navigation system. The maximum flying altitude was around 3000 m; therefore, the validation measurements were limited to situations with low-level clouds only. The validation was done by comparing MERIS data and lidar data. The statistical analysis of the observations revealed a high accuracy of the MERIS CTP product for low-level clouds, apart from a slight systematic overestimation of cloud-top heights. The root-mean-square error was 249 m, with a bias of +232 m. In the average top height level of ∼2000 m, these values are commensurate to pressure values of 24 hPa (rmse) and −22 hPa (bias). Furthermore, this validation campaign revealed deficiencies of the MERIS cloud mask to detect small-scale broken clouds.

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