The scientific basis for a satellite mission to retrieve CCN concentrations and their impacts on convective clouds
The cloud-mediated aerosol radiative forcing is widely recognized as the main source of uncertainty in our knowledge of the anthropogenic forcing on climate. The current challenges for improving our understanding are (1) global measurements of cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) in the cloudy boundary layer from space, and (2) disentangling the effects of aerosols from the thermodynamic and meteorological effects on the clouds. Here, we present a new conceptual framework to help us overcome these two challenges, using relatively simple passive satellite measurements in the visible and infared (IR). The idea is to use the clouds themselves as natural CCN chambers by retrieving simultaneously the number of activated aerosols at cloud base, Na, and the cloud base updraft speed. The Na is obtained by analyzing the distribution of cloud drop effective radius in convective elements as a function of distance above cloud base. The cloud base updraft velocities are estimated by double stereoscopic viewing and tracking of the evolution of cloud surface features just above cloud base. In order to resolve the vertical dimension of the clouds, the field of view will be 100 m for the microphysical retrievals, and 50 m for the stereoscopic measurements. The viewing geometry will be eastward and 30 degrees off nadir, with the Sun in the back at 30 degrees off zenith westward, requiring a Sun-synchronous orbit at 14 LST. Measuring simultaneously the thermodynamic environment, the vertical motions of the clouds, their microstructure and the CCN concentration will allow separating the dynamics from the CCN effects. This concept is being applied in the proposed satellite mission named Clouds, Hazards and Aerosols Survey for Earth Researchers (CHASER).