Observation of absorbing aerosols above clouds over the south-east Atlantic Ocean from the geostationary satellite SEVIRI – Part 1: Method description and sensitivity
High-temporal-resolution observations from satellites have a great potential for studying the impact of biomass burning aerosols and clouds over the south-east Atlantic Ocean (SEAO). This paper presents a method developed to simultaneously retrieve aerosol and cloud properties in aerosol above-cloud conditions from the geostationary instrument Meteosat Second Generation/Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (MSG/SEVIRI). The above-cloud aerosol optical thickness (AOT), the cloud optical thickness (COT) and the cloud droplet effective radius (CER) are derived from the spectral contrast and the magnitude of the signal measured in three channels in the visible to shortwave infrared region. The impact of the absorption from atmospheric gases on the satellite signal is corrected by applying transmittances calculated using the water vapour profiles from a Met Office forecast model. The sensitivity analysis shows that a 10 % error on the humidity profile leads to an 18.5 % bias on the above-cloud AOT, which highlights the importance of an accurate atmospheric correction scheme. In situ measurements from the CLARIFY-2017 airborne field campaign are used to constrain the aerosol size distribution and refractive index that is assumed for the aforementioned retrieval algorithm. The sensitivities in the retrieved AOT, COT and CER to the aerosol model assumptions are assessed. Between 09:00 and 15:00 UTC, an uncertainty of 40 % is estimated on the above-cloud AOT, which is dominated by the sensitivity of the retrieval to the single-scattering albedo. The absorption AOT is less sensitive to the aerosol assumptions with an uncertainty generally lower than 17 % between 09:00 and 15:00 UTC. Outside of that time range, as the scattering angle decreases, the sensitivity of the AOT and the absorption AOT to the aerosol model increases. The retrieved cloud properties are only weakly sensitive to the aerosol model assumptions throughout the day, with biases lower than 6 % on the COT and 3 % on the CER. The stability of the retrieval over time is analysed. For observations outside of the backscattering glory region, the time series of the aerosol and cloud properties are physically consistent, which confirms the ability of the retrieval to monitor the temporal evolution of aerosol above-cloud events over the SEAO.