Shortwave Radiative Effect of Arctic Low-Level Clouds: Evaluation of Imagery-Derived Irradiance with Aircraft Observations Journal Article uri icon



  • Abstract. Cloud optical properties such as optical thickness along with surface albedo are important inputs for deriving the shortwave radiative effects of clouds from space-borne remote sensing. Owing to insufficient knowledge about the snow or ice surface in the Arctic, cloud detection and the retrieval products derived from passive remote sensing, such as from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), are difficult to obtain with adequate accuracy – especially for low-level thin clouds, which are ubiquitous in the Arctic. This study aims at evaluating the spectral and broadband irradiance calculated from MODIS-derived cloud properties in the Arctic using aircraft measurements collected during the Arctic Radiation-IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE), specifically using the upwelling and downwelling shortwave spectral and broadband irradiance measured by the Solar Spectral Flux Radiometer (SSFR) and the BroadBand Radiometer system (BBR). This entails the derivation of surface albedo from SSFR/BBR and camera imagery for heterogeneous surfaces in the marginal ice zone (MIZ), as well as subsequent measurement-model inter-comparisons in the presence of thin clouds. In addition to MODIS cloud retrievals and surface albedo from SSFR, we used temperature and humidity data from in-situ data and reanalysis (MERRA-2). The spectral surface albedo derived from the airborne radiometers is consistent with prior ground-based measurements, and adequately represents the surface variability for the study region and time period. Somewhat surprisingly, the primary error in MODIS-derived irradiance fields for this study stems from undetected clouds, rather than from the retrieved cloud properties. In our case studies, about 22 % of clouds remained undetected (cloud optical thickness less than 0.5). The radiative effect of clouds above the detection threshold was −40 W m−2 above cloud, and −39 W m−2 below the cloud layer, and the optical thickness from the MODIS "1621" cloud product was consistent with the reflected and transmitted irradiance observations. This study suggests that passive imagery cloud detection could be improved through a multi-pixel approach, that would make it more dependable in the Arctic. Regardless of the cloud retrieval method, there is a need for an operational imagery-based surface albedo product for the polar regions that adequately captures its temporal, spatial, and spectral variability to estimate cloud radiative effect from space-borne remote sensing.;

publication date

  • October 28, 2019

has restriction

  • green

Date in CU Experts

  • November 4, 2020 6:06 AM

Full Author List

  • Chen H; Schmidt S; King MD; Wind G; Bucholtz A; Reid EA; Segal-Rozenhaimer M; Smith WL; Taylor PC; Kato S

author count

  • 11

Other Profiles