Use of spectral cloud emissivities and their related uncertainties to infer ice cloud boundaries: methodology and assessment using CALIPSO cloud products

Kim, Hye-Sil; Baum, Bryan A.; Choi, Yong-Sang

Satellite-imager-based operational cloud property retrievals generally assume that a cloudy pixel can be treated as being plane-parallel with horizontally homogeneous properties. This assumption can lead to high uncertainties in cloud heights, particularly for the case of optically thin, but geometrically thick, clouds composed of ice particles. This study demonstrates that ice cloud emissivity uncertainties can be used to provide a reasonable range of ice cloud layer boundaries, i.e., the minimum to maximum heights. Here ice cloud emissivity uncertainties are obtained for three IR channels centered at 11, 12, and 13.3 µm. The range of cloud emissivities is used to infer a range of ice cloud temperature and heights, rather than a single value per pixel as provided by operational cloud retrievals. Our methodology is tested using MODIS observations over the western North Pacific Ocean during August 2015. We estimate minimum–maximum heights for three cloud regimes, i.e., single-layered optically thin ice clouds, single-layered optically thick ice clouds, and multilayered clouds. Our results are assessed through comparison with CALIOP version 4 cloud products for a total of 11873 pixels. The cloud boundary heights for single-layered optically thin clouds show good agreement with those from CALIOP; biases for maximum (minimum) heights versus the cloud-top (base) heights of CALIOP are 0.13 km (−1.01 km). For optically thick and multilayered clouds, the biases of the estimated cloud heights from the cloud top or cloud base become larger (0.30/−1.71 km, 1.41/−4.64 km). The vertically resolved boundaries for ice clouds can contribute new information for data assimilation efforts for weather prediction and radiation budget studies. Our method is applicable to measurements provided by most geostationary weather satellites including the GK-2A advanced multichannel infrared imager.

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Kim, Hye-Sil / Baum, Bryan A. / Choi, Yong-Sang: Use of spectral cloud emissivities and their related uncertainties to infer ice cloud boundaries: methodology and assessment using CALIPSO cloud products. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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