Articles | Volume 13, issue 21
Research article
07 Nov 2013
Research article |  | 07 Nov 2013

Spatial distribution of dust's optical properties over the Sahara and Asia inferred from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer

M. Yoshida, J. M. Haywood, T. Yokohata, H. Murakami, and T. Nakajima

Abstract. There is great uncertainty regarding the role of mineral dust aerosols in Earth's climate system. One reason for this uncertainty is that the optical properties of mineral dust, such as its single scattering albedo (the ratio of scattering to total extinction), are poorly constrained because ground observations are limited to a few locations and satellite standard products are not available due to the excessively bright surface of the desert in the visible wavelength, which makes robust retrievals difficult. Here, we develop a method to estimate the spatial distributions of the aerosol single scattering albedo (ω0) and optical depth (τa), with daily 1°×1° spatial resolution using data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) as well as model simulations of radiative transfer. This approach is based on the "critical surface reflectance" method developed in the literature, which estimates ω0 from the top of the atmospheric radiance. We estimate the uncertainties in ω0 over the Sahara (Asia) to be approximately 0.020 and 0.010 (0.023 and 0.017) for bands 9 and 1, respectively, while the uncertainty in τa is approximately 0.235 and 0.228 (0.464 and 0.370) for bands 9 and 1, respectively. The 5–95% range of the spatial distribution of ω0 over the Sahara (Asia) is approximately 0.90–0.94 and 0.96–0.99 (0.87–0.94 and 0.89–0.97) for bands 9 and 1, respectively, and that of τa over the Sahara (Asia) is approximately 0.8–1.4 and 0.8–1.7 (0.7–2.0 and 0.7–1.9) for bands 9 and 1, respectively. The results for the Sahara indicate a good correlation between ω0 and the surface reflectance, and between ω0 and τa. However, the relationships between ω0, τa, and surface reflectance are less clear in Asia than in the Sahara, and the ω0 values are smaller than those in the Sahara. The regions with small ω0 values are consistent with the regions where coal-burning smoke and carbonaceous aerosols are reported to be transported in previous studies. Because the coal-burning and carbonaceous aerosols are known to be more absorptive and have smaller ω0 values than dust aerosols, our results indicate that the dust aerosols in Asia are contaminated by these anthropogenic aerosols. The spatial distribution of dust optical properties obtained in our work could be useful in understanding the role of dust aerosols in Earth's climate system, most likely through future collaboration with regional and global modelling studies.

Final-revised paper