Depolarization ratio of polar stratospheric clouds in coastal Antarctica: comparison analysis between ground-based Micro Pulse Lidar and space-borne CALIOP observations
Polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) play an important role in polar ozone depletion, since they are involved in diverse ozone destruction processes (chlorine activation, denitrification). The degree of that ozone reduction is depending on the type of PSCs, and hence on their occurrence. Therefore PSC characterization, mainly focused on PSC-type discrimination, is widely demanded. The backscattering ( R) and volume linear depolarization (δ V) ratios are the parameters usually used in lidar measurements for PSC detection and identification. In this work, an improved version of the standard NASA/Micro Pulse Lidar (MPL-4), which includes a built-in depolarization detection module, has been used for PSC observations above the coastal Antarctic Belgrano II station (Argentina, 77.9° S 34.6° W, 256 m a.s.l.) since 2009. Examination of the MPL-4 δ V feature as a suitable index for PSC-type discrimination is based on the analysis of the two-channel data, i.e., the parallel (p-) and perpendicular (s-) polarized MPL signals. This study focuses on the comparison of coincident δ V-profiles as obtained from ground-based MPL-4 measurements during three Antarctic winters with those reported from the space-borne lidar CALIOP (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization) aboard the CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) satellite in the same period (83 simultaneous cases are analysed for 2009–2011 austral winter times). Three different approaches are considered for the comparison analysis between both lidar profile data sets in order to test the degree of agreement: the correlation coefficient (CC), as a measure of the relationship between both PSC vertical structures; the mean differences together with their root mean square (RMS) values found between data sets; and the percentage differences (BIAS), parameter also used in profiling comparisons between CALIOP and other ground-based lidar systems. All of them are examined as a function of the CALIPSO ground-track distance from the Belgrano II station. Results represent a relatively good agreement between both ground-based MPL-4 and space-borne CALIOP profiles of the volume linear depolarization ratio δ V for PSC events, once the MPL-4 depolarization calibration parameters are applied. Discrepancies between CALIOP and MPL-4 profiles in vertical layering structure are enhanced from 20 km up, likely due to a decrease of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) for both lidar systems at those altitudes. Regarding the results obtained from the mean and the percentage differences found between MPL-4 and CALIOP δ V profiles, a predominance of negative values is also observed, indicating a generalized underestimation of the MPL-4 depolarization as compared to that reported by CALIOP. However, absolute differences between those δ V-profile data sets are no higher than a 10 ± 11% in average. Moreover, the degree of agreement between both lidar δ V data sets is slightly dependent on the CALIPSO ground-track overpass distance from the Belgrano II station. That is, small discrepancies are found when CALIPSO ground-track distance is as close as far from the ground-based station. These results would indicate that MPL-4 depolarization observations would reflect relatively well the PSC field that CALIOP can detect at relatively large distances from the ground-based station. As a consequence, PSC properties can be statistically similar, on average, over large volumes, and hence the present weak disagreement found between both the lidar δ V data sets can be likely dominated by small spatial PSC inhomogeneities along the CALIPSO separation from the station. This statement is based on the fact that Belgrano II is a station located well inside the stable Antarctic polar vortex, allowing determined thermodynamic conditions leading to a very low variability in the PSC field, and in their properties.