Articles | Volume 14, issue 14
Research article
16 Jul 2014
Research article |  | 16 Jul 2014

Study of global cloud droplet number concentration with A-Train satellites

S. Zeng, J. Riedi, C. R. Trepte, D. M. Winker, and Y.-X. Hu

Abstract. Cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC) is an important microphysical property of liquid clouds that impacts radiative forcing, precipitation and is pivotal for understanding cloud–aerosol interactions. Current studies of this parameter at global scales with satellite observations are still challenging, especially because retrieval algorithms developed for passive sensors (i.e., MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)/Aqua) have to rely on the assumption of cloud adiabatic growth. The active sensor component of the A-Train constellation (i.e., Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP)/CALIPSO) allows retrievals of CDNC from depolarization measurements at 532 nm. For such a case, the retrieval does not rely on the adiabatic assumption but instead must use a priori information on effective radius (re), which can be obtained from other passive sensors.

In this paper, re values obtained from MODIS/Aqua and Polarization and Directionality of the Earth Reflectance (POLDER)/PARASOL (two passive sensors, components of the A-Train) are used to constrain CDNC retrievals from CALIOP. Intercomparison of CDNC products retrieved from MODIS and CALIOP sensors is performed, and the impacts of cloud entrainment, drizzling, horizontal heterogeneity and effective radius are discussed. By analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of different retrieval techniques, this study aims to better understand global CDNC distribution and eventually determine cloud structure and atmospheric conditions in which they develop. The improved understanding of CDNC can contribute to future studies of global cloud–aerosol–precipitation interaction and parameterization of clouds in global climate models (GCMs).

Final-revised paper