On the use of a satellite remote-sensing-based approach for determining aerosol direct radiative effect over land: a case study over China
Abstract. A satellite-based approach to derive the aerosol direct shortwave (SW) radiative effect (ADRE) was studied in an environment with highly variable aerosol conditions over eastern China from March to October 2009. The method is based on using coincident SW top-of-the-atmosphere (TOA) fluxes from the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) and aerosol optical depths (AODs) from the MODerate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to derive SW clear-sky ADRE. The estimate for the aerosol-free TOA flux (F0,TOA) is obtained by establishing linear regression between CERES SW TOA fluxes and MODIS AODs. A normalization procedure to a fixed solar zenith angle, Earth–Sun distance and atmospheric water vapor content was applied to the CERES fluxes prior to the linear fit against AOD to reduce the flux variation not related to aerosols. In the majority of the cases, the normalization increased positive correlation between observed SW TOA fluxes and AODs, and it decreased RMSE. The key question in the satellite-based approach is the accuracy of the estimated F0,TOA. Comparison with simulated F0,TOA showed that both the satellite method and the model produced qualitatively similar spatial patterns, but absolute values differed. In 58 % of the cases the satellite-based F0,TOA was within ±10 W m−2 of the modeled value (about 7–8 % difference in flux values). Over bright surfaces, the satellite-based method tend to produce lower F0,TOA than the model. The satellite-based clear-sky estimates for median instantaneous and diurnally averaged ADRE over the study area were −8.8 W m−2 and −5.1 W m−2, respectively. Over heavily industrialized areas, the cooling at TOA was 2 to more than 3 times the median value, and associated with high AODs (> 0.5). Especially during the summer months, positive ADREs were observed locally over dark surfaces. This was most probably a method artifact related to systematic change of aerosol type, sub-visual cloud contamination or both.