Cirrus Cloud Retrieval Using Infrared Sounding Data: Multilevel Cloud Errors

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  • 1 Atmospheric Sciences Division, NASA/Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia
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Abstract

In this study we perform an error analysis for cloud-top pressure retrieval using the High-Resolution Infrared Radiometric Sounder (HIRS/2) 15-µm CO2 channels for the two-layer case of transmissive cirrus overlying an overcast, opaque stratiform cloud. This analysis includes standard deviation and bias error due to instrument noise and the presence of two cloud layers, the lower of which is opaque. Instantaneous cloud pressure retrieval errors are determined for a range of cloud amounts (0.1–1.0) and cloud-top pressures (850−250 mb). Large cloud-top pressure retrieval errors are found to occur when a lower opaque layer is present underneath an upper transmissive cloud layer in the satellite field of view (FOV). Errors tend to increase with decreasing upper-cloud elective cloud amount and with decreasing cloud height (increasing pressure). Errors in retrieved upper-cloud pressure result in corresponding errors in derived effective cloud amount. For the case in which a HIRS FOV has two distinct cloud layers, the difference between the retrieved and actual cloud-top pressure is positive in all casts, meaning that the retrieved upper-cloud height is lower than the actual upper-cloud height. In addition, errors in retrieved cloud pressure are found to depend upon the lapse rate between the low-level cloud top and the surface. We examined which sounder channel combinations would minimize the total errors in derived cirrus cloud height caused by instrument noise and by the presence of a lower-level cloud. We find that while the sounding channels that peak between 700 and 1000 mb minimize random errors, the sounding channels that peak at 300—500 mb minimize bias errors. For a cloud climatology, the bias errors are most critical.

Abstract

In this study we perform an error analysis for cloud-top pressure retrieval using the High-Resolution Infrared Radiometric Sounder (HIRS/2) 15-µm CO2 channels for the two-layer case of transmissive cirrus overlying an overcast, opaque stratiform cloud. This analysis includes standard deviation and bias error due to instrument noise and the presence of two cloud layers, the lower of which is opaque. Instantaneous cloud pressure retrieval errors are determined for a range of cloud amounts (0.1–1.0) and cloud-top pressures (850−250 mb). Large cloud-top pressure retrieval errors are found to occur when a lower opaque layer is present underneath an upper transmissive cloud layer in the satellite field of view (FOV). Errors tend to increase with decreasing upper-cloud elective cloud amount and with decreasing cloud height (increasing pressure). Errors in retrieved upper-cloud pressure result in corresponding errors in derived effective cloud amount. For the case in which a HIRS FOV has two distinct cloud layers, the difference between the retrieved and actual cloud-top pressure is positive in all casts, meaning that the retrieved upper-cloud height is lower than the actual upper-cloud height. In addition, errors in retrieved cloud pressure are found to depend upon the lapse rate between the low-level cloud top and the surface. We examined which sounder channel combinations would minimize the total errors in derived cirrus cloud height caused by instrument noise and by the presence of a lower-level cloud. We find that while the sounding channels that peak between 700 and 1000 mb minimize random errors, the sounding channels that peak at 300—500 mb minimize bias errors. For a cloud climatology, the bias errors are most critical.

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