High-resolution (375 m) cloud microstructure as seen from the NPP/VIIRS satellite imager
VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), onboard the Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership) satellite, has an improved resolution of 750 m with respect to the 1000 m of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer for the channels that allow retrieving cloud microphysical parameters such as cloud drop effective radius (
re). VIIRS also has an imager with five channels of double resolution of 375 m, which was not designed for retrieving cloud products. A methodology for a high-resolution retrieval of
re and microphysical presentation of the cloud field based on the VIIRS imager was developed and evaluated with respect to MODIS in this study. The tripled microphysical resolution with respect to MODIS allows obtaining new insights for cloud–aerosol interactions, especially at the smallest cloud scales, because the VIIRS imager can resolve the small convective elements that are sub-pixel for MODIS cloud products. Examples are given for new insights into ship tracks in marine stratocumulus, pollution tracks from point and diffused sources in stratocumulus and cumulus clouds over land, deep tropical convection in pristine air mass over ocean and land, tropical clouds that develop in smoke from forest fires and in heavy pollution haze over densely populated regions in southeastern Asia, and for pyro-cumulonimbus clouds.
It is found that the VIIRS imager provides more robust physical interpretation and refined information for cloud and aerosol microphysics as compared to MODIS, especially in the initial stage of cloud formation. VIIRS is found to identify significantly more fully cloudy pixels when small boundary layer convective elements are present. This, in turn, allows for a better quantification of cloud–aerosol interactions and impacts on precipitation-forming processes.