Some implications of sampling choices on comparisons between satellite and model aerosol optical depth fields
Abstract. The comparison of satellite and model aerosol optical depth (AOD) fields provides useful information on the strengths and weaknesses of both. However, the sampling of satellite and models is very different and some subjective decisions about data selection and aggregation must be made in order to perform such comparisons. This work examines some implications of these decisions, using GlobAerosol AOD retrievals at 550 nm from Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) measurements, and aerosol fields from the GEOS-Chem chemistry transport model. It is recommended to sample the model only where the satellite flies over on a particular day; neglecting this can cause regional differences in model AOD of up to 0.1 on monthly and annual timescales. The comparison is observed to depend strongly upon thresholds for sparsity of satellite retrievals in the model grid cells. Requiring at least 25% coverage of the model grid cell by satellite data decreases the observed difference between the two by approximately half over land. The impact over ocean is smaller. In both model and satellite datasets, there is an anticorrelation between the proportion p of a model grid cell covered by satellite retrievals and the AOD. This is attributed to small p typically occuring due to high cloud cover and lower AODs being found in large clear-sky regions. Daily median AATSR AODs were found to be closer to GEOS-Chem AODs than daily means (with the root mean squared difference being approximately 0.05 smaller). This is due to the decreased sensitivity of medians to outliers such as cloud-contaminated retrievals, or aerosol point sources not included in the model.