Comparison of MODIS 3 km and 10 km resolution aerosol optical depth retrievals over land with airborne sunphotometer measurements during ARCTAS summer 2008
Abstract. Airborne sunphotometer measurements acquired by the NASA Ames Airborne Tracking Sunphotometer (AATS-14) aboard the NASA P-3 research aircraft are used to evaluate dark-target over-land retrievals of extinction aerosol optical depth (AOD) from spatially and temporally near-coincident measurements by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) during the summer 2008 Arctic Research of the Composition of the Troposphere from Aircraft and Satellites (ARCTAS) field campaign. The new MODIS Collection 6 aerosol data set includes retrievals of AOD at both 10 km × 10 km and 3 km × 3 km (at nadir) resolution. In this paper we compare MODIS and AATS AOD at 553 nm in 58 10 km and 134 3 km retrieval grid cells. These AOD values were derived from data collected over Canada on four days during short time segments of five (four Aqua and one Terra) satellite overpasses of the P-3 during low-altitude P-3 flight tracks. Three of the five MODIS–AATS coincidence events were dominated by smoke: one included a P-3 transect of a well-defined smoke plume in clear sky, but two were confounded by the presence of scattered clouds above smoke. The clouds limited the number of MODIS retrievals available for comparison, and led to MODIS AOD retrievals that underestimated the corresponding AATS values. This happened because the MODIS aerosol cloud mask selectively removed 0.5 km pixels containing smoke and clouds before the aerosol retrieval. The other two coincidences (one Terra and one Aqua) occurred during one P-3 flight on the same day and in the same general area, in an atmosphere characterized by a relatively low AOD (< 0.3), spatially homogeneous regional haze from smoke outflow with no distinguishable plume. For the ensemble data set for MODIS AOD retrievals with the highest-quality flag, MODIS AOD agrees with AATS AOD within the expected MODIS over-land AOD uncertainty in 60% of the retrieval grid cells at 10 km resolution and 69% at 3 km resolution. These values improve to 65 % and 74%, respectively, when the cloud-affected case with the strongest plume is excluded. We find that the standard MODIS dark-target over-land retrieval algorithm fails to retrieve AOD for thick smoke, not only in cloud-contaminated regions but also in clear sky. We attribute this to deselection, by the cloud and/or bright surface masks, of 0.5 km resolution pixels that contain smoke.