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Sundar A. Christopher and Jianglong Zhang

Abstract

Hourly Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-8 (GOES-8) imager data (1344–1944 UTC) from 20 July–31 August 1998 were used to study the daytime variation of shortwave direct radiative forcing (SWARF) of smoke aerosols over biomass burning regions in South America (4°–16°S, 51°–65°W). Vicarious calibration procedures were used to adjust the GOES visible channel reflectance values for the degradation in signal response. Using Mie theory and discrete ordinate radiative transfer (DISORT) calculations, smoke aerosol optical thickness (AOT) was estimated at 0.67 μm. The GOES-retrieved AOT was then compared against ground-based AOT retrieved values. Using the retrieved GOES-8 AOT, a four-stream broadband radiative transfer model was used to compute shortwave fluxes for smoke aerosols at the top of the atmosphere (TOA). The daytime variation of smoke AOT and SWARF was examined for the study area. For selected days, the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) TOA shortwave (SW) fluxes are compared against the model-derived SW fluxes.

Results of this study show that the GOES-derived AOT is in excellent agreement with Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET)-derived AOT values with linear correlation coefficient of 0.97. The TOA CERES-estimated SW fluxes compare well with the model-calculated SW fluxes with linear correlation coefficient of 0.94. For August 1998 the daytime diurnally averaged AOT and SWARF for the study area is 0.63 ± 0.39 and −45.8 ± 18.8 W m−2, respectively. This is among the first studies to estimate the daytime diurnal variation of SWARF of smoke aerosols using satellite data.

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Thomas A. Jones and Sundar A. Christopher
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Thomas A. Jones and Sundar A. Christopher

Abstract

Many large grass fires occurred in north Texas and southern Oklahoma on 9 April 2009, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses and burning thousands of acres of grasslands, producing large smoke and debris plumes that were visible from various remote sensing platforms. At the same time, strong westerly winds were transporting large amounts of dust into the region, mixing with the smoke and debris already being generated. This research uses surface- and satellite-based remote sensing observations of this event to assess the locations of fires and the spatial distribution of smoke and dust aerosols. The authors present a unique perspective by analyzing radar observations of fire debris in conjunction with the satellite analysis of submicrometer smoke aerosol particles. Satellite data clearly show the location of the individual fires and the downwind smoke plumes as well as the large dust storm present over the region. In particular, Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol optical thickness at 0.55 μm within the dust plume was around 0.5, and it increased to greater than 1.0 when combined with smoke. Using the difference in 11- versus 12-μm brightness temperature data combined with surface observations, the large extent of the dust plume was evident through much of north-central Texas, where visibilities were low and the 11–12-μm brightness temperature difference was negative. Conversely, smoke plumes were characterized by higher reflectance at 0.6 μm (visible wavelength). Cross sections of radar data through the several smoke and debris plumes indicated the burnt debris reached up to 5 km into the atmosphere. Plume height output from modified severe storm algorithms produced similar values. Since smoke aerosols are smaller and lighter when compared with the debris, they were likely being transported even higher into the atmosphere. These results show that the combination of satellite and radar data offers a unique perspective on observing the characteristics and evolution of smoke and debris plume emanating from grass fire events.

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Thomas J. Greenwald and Sundar A. Christopher

This study reviews the capability of the advanced imagers on Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES) I–M to provide quantitative information about bulk microphysical properties of low-level stratiform clouds, namely, cloud liquid water path (LWP) and droplet effective radius (re). Previous studies show that accurate estimates of cloud LWP from GOES imagers are possible, as evaluated from both ground-based and spaceborne passive microwave measurements, provided care is taken in vicarious calibration of the visible channel. GOES estimates of re have yet to be validated. However, the re versus LWP relationship derived from GOES and Special Sensor Microwave/Imager data shows good agreement with theory. The unique high-temporal sampling of the imager allows for detailed study of daytime characteristics of cloud microphysical properties and, possibly, indirect aerosol effect. Microphysical information for drizzling marine stratocumuli was also obtained, which was confirmed by direct comparison to ship-based C-band radar during the 1997 Tropical Eastern Pacific Process Study. From the promising results obtained thus far, GOES I–M imager data should be of great value in future field experiments involving low-level stratiform clouds.

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Thomas A. Jones, Sundar A. Christopher, and Walt Petersen

Abstract

Dual-polarimetric microwave wavelength radar observations of an apartment fire in Huntsville, Alabama, on 3 March 2008 are examined to determine the radar-observable properties of ash and fire debris lofted into the atmosphere. Dual-polarimetric observations are collected at close range (<20 km) by the 5-cm (C band) Advanced Radar for Meteorological and Operational Research (ARMOR) radar operated by the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Precipitation radars, such as ARMOR, are not sensitive to aerosol-sized (D < 10 μm) smoke particles, but they are sensitive to the larger ash and burnt debris embedded within the smoke plume. The authors also assess if turbulent eddies caused by the heat of the fire cause Bragg scattering to occur at the 5-cm wavelength.

In this example, the mean reflectivity within the debris plume from the 1.3° elevation scan was 9.0 dBZ, with a few values exceeding 20 dBZ. The plume is present more than 20 km downstream of the fire, with debris lofted at least 1 km above ground level into the atmosphere. Velocities up to 20 m s−1 are present within the plume, indicating that the travel time for the debris from its source to the maximum range of detection is less than 20 min. Dual-polarization observations show that backscattered radiation is dominated by nonspherical, large, oblate targets as indicated by nonzero differential reflectivity values (mean = 1.7 dB) and low correlation coefficients (0.49). Boundary layer convective rolls are also observed that have very low reflectivity values (−6.0 dBZ); however, differential reflectivity is much larger (3.2 dB). This is likely the result of noise, because ARMOR differential reflectivity is not reliable for reflectivity values <0 dBZ. Also, copolar correlation is even lower compared to the debris plume (0.42). The remainder of the data mainly consists of atmospheric and ground-clutter noise. The large differential phase values coupled with positive differential reflectivity strongly indicate that the source of much of the return from the debris plume is particle scattering. However, given the significant degree of noise present, a substantial contribution from Bragg scattering cannot be entirely ruled out.

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Xiang Li, Sundar A. Christopher, Joyce Chou, and Ronald M. Welch

Abstract

Using a new angular distribution model (ADM) for smoke aerosols, the instantaneous top-of-atmosphere (TOA) shortwave aerosol radiative forcing (SWARF) is calculated for selected days over biomass-burning regions in South America. The visible and infrared scanner data are used to detect smoke aerosols and the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) scanner data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission are used to obtain the broadband radiances. First, the ADM for smoke aerosols is calculated over land surfaces using a discrete-ordinate radiative transfer model. The instantaneous TOA shortwave (SW) fluxes are estimated using the new smoke ADM and are compared with the SW fluxes from the CERES product. The rms error between the CERES SW fluxes and fluxes using the smoke ADM is 13 W m−2. The TOA SWARFs per unit optical thickness for the six surface types range from −29 to −57 W m−2, showing that smoke aerosols have a distinct cooling effect. The new smoke ADM developed as part of this study could be used to estimate radiative impact of biomass-burning aerosols.

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Sundar A. Christopher, Min Wang, Todd A. Berendes, Ronald M. Welch, and Shi-Keng Yang

Abstract

Using satellite imagery, more than five million square kilometers of the forest and cerrado regions over South America are extensively studied to monitor fires and smoke during the 1985 biomass burning season. The results are characterized for four major ecosystems, namely, 1) tropical rain forest, 2) tropical broadleaf seasonal, 3) savanna/grass and seasonal woods (SGW), and 4) mild/warm/hot grass/shrub (MGS). The spatial and temporal distribution of fires are examined from two different methods using the multispectral Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer Local Area Coverage data. Using collocated measurements from the instantaneous scanner Earth Radiation Budget Experiment data, the direct regional radiative forcing of biomass burning aerosols is computed. The results show that more than 70% of the fires occur in the MGS and SGW ecosystems due to agricultural practices. The smoke generated from biomass burning has negative instantaneous net radiative forcing values for all four major ecosystems within South America. The smoke found directly over the fires has mean net radiative forcing values ranging from −25.6 to −33.9 W m−2. These results confirm that the regional net radiative impact of biomass burning is one of cooling. The spectral and broadband properties for clear-sky and smoke regions are also presented that could be used as input and/or validation for other studies attempting to model the impact of aerosols on the earth–atmosphere system.

These results have important applications for future instruments from the Earth Observing System (EOS) program. Specifically, the combination of the Visible Infrared Scanner and Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) instruments from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and the combination of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer and CERES instruments from the EOS morning crossing mission could provide reliable estimates of the direct radiative forcing of aerosols on a global scale, thereby reducing the uncertainties in current global aerosol radiative forcing values.

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Dennis J. Musil, Sundar A. Christopher, Regina A. Deola, and Paul L. Smith

Abstract

This study investigates some of the characteristics or the interior regions of several hailstorms penetrated by the armored T-28 aircraft during the 1981 CCOPE field project. The vertical wind data were analyzed to identify updraft and downdraft regions to facilitate the discussion of measurements made within the identified draft regions, such as draft sizes and speeds, cloud liquid water concentrations (LWC), turbulent and hail.

Updrafts were more numerous than downdraft regions, tended to have greater horizontal extent and higher speeds, and were somewhat more turbulent. Significant correlations existed between peak vertical wind speeds and peak values of LWC or turbulence, as well as (for updrafts) between peak speed and draft size. Values of the LWC were generally quite low compared to adiabatic values, with the exception of two large severe hailstorms that may have had adiabatic updraft cores. The general characteristics of the hail observations, such as number and mass concentrations, maximum sizes, and locations within specific draft regions are discussed. Reflectivity gradients computed from radar measurements were compared with the had observations from the two largest storms; the analysis shows that the hail tended to be located in high-reflectivity regions rather than in regions of high-reflectivity gradient. The data are discussed in terms of possible implications for numerical modeling or precipitation process in convective storms.

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Thomas J. Greenwald, Graeme L. Stephens, Sundar A. Christopher, and Thomas H. Vonder Haar

Abstract

The large-scale spatial distribution and temporal variability of cloud liquid water path (LWP) over the world's oceans and the relationship of cloud LWP to temperature and the radiation budget are investigated using recent satellite measurements from the Special Sensor Microwave/Imager(SSM/1),the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE), and the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP). Observations of cloud liquid water on a 2.5° × 2.5° grid are used over a 53-month period beginning July 1987 and ending in December 1991.

The highest values of cloud liquid water (greater than 0.13 kg m−2) occur largely along principal routes of northern midlatitude storm and in area dominated by tropical convection. The zonally averaged structure is distinctly trimodal, where maxima appear in the midlatitudes and near the equator. The avenge marine cloud LWP over the globe is estimated to he about 0.113 kg m−2. Its highest seasonal variability is typically between 15% and 25% of the annual mean but in certain locations can exceed 30%. Comparisons of cloud LWP to temperature for low clouds during JJA and DJF of 1990 show significant positive correlations at colder temperatures and negative correlations at warmer temperatures. The correlations also exhibit strong seasonal and regional variation.

Coincident and collocated observations of cloud LWP from the SSM/I and albedo measurements from the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite (ERBS) and the NOAA-10 satellite are compared for low clouds in the North Pacific and North Atlantic. The observed albedo-LWP relationships correspond reasonably well with theory, where the average cloud effective radius (re) is 11.1 μm and the standard deviation is 5.2 μm. The large variability in the inferred values of re suggests that other factors may be important in the albedo-LWP relationships. In terms of the effect of the LWP on the net cloud forcing, the authors find that a 0.05 kg m−2 increase in LWP (for LWP >0.2 kg m−2) results in a −25 W m−2 change in the net cloud forcing at a solar zenith angle of 75°.

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Sundar A. Christopher, Xiang Li, Ronald M. Welch, Jeffrey S. Reid, Peter V. Hobbs, Thomas F. Eck, and Brent Holben

Abstract

Using in situ measurements of aerosol optical properties and ground-based measurements of aerosol optical thickness (τ s) during the Smoke, Clouds and Radiation—Brazil (SCAR-B) experiment, a four-stream broadband radiative transfer model is used to estimate the downward shortwave irradiance (DSWI) and top-of-atmosphere (TOA) shortwave aerosol radiative forcing (SWARF) in cloud-free regions dominated by smoke from biomass burning in Brazil. The calculated DSWI values are compared with broadband pyranometer measurements made at the surface. The results show that, for two days when near-coincident measurements of single-scattering albedo ω 0 and τ s are available, the root-mean-square errors between the measured and calculated DSWI for daytime data are within 30 W m−2. For five days during SCAR-B, however, when assumptions about ω 0 have to be made and also when τ s was significantly higher, the differences can be as large as 100 W m−2. At TOA, the SWARF per unit optical thickness ranges from −20 to −60 W m−2 over four major ecosystems in South America. The results show that τ s and ω 0 are the two most important parameters that affect DSWI calculations. For SWARF values, surface albedos also play an important role. It is shown that ω 0 must be known within 0.05 and τ s at 0.55 μm must be known to within 0.1 to estimate DSWI to within 20 W m−2. The methodology described in this paper could serve as a potential strategy for determining DSWI values in the presence of aerosols. The wavelength dependence of τ s and ω 0 over the entire shortwave spectrum is needed to improve radiative transfer calculations. If global retrievals of DSWI and SWARF from satellite measurements are to be performed in the presence of biomass-burning aerosols on a routine basis, a concerted effort should be made to develop methodologies for estimating ω 0 and τ s from satellite and ground-based measurements.

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