Spectral optical layer properties of cirrus from collocated airborne measurements and simulations
Abstract. Spectral upward and downward solar irradiances from vertically collocated measurements above and below a cirrus layer are used to derive cirrus optical layer properties such as spectral transmissivity, absorptivity, reflectivity, and cloud top albedo. The radiation measurements are complemented by in situ cirrus crystal size distribution measurements and radiative transfer simulations based on the microphysical data. The close collocation of the radiative and microphysical measurements, above, beneath, and inside the cirrus, is accomplished by using a research aircraft (Learjet 35A) in tandem with the towed sensor platform AIRTOSS (AIRcraft TOwed Sensor Shuttle). AIRTOSS can be released from and retracted back to the research aircraft by means of a cable up to a distance of 4 km. Data were collected from two field campaigns over the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in spring and late summer 2013. One measurement flight over the North Sea proved to be exemplary, and as such the results are used to illustrate the benefits of collocated sampling. The radiative transfer simulations were applied to quantify the impact of cloud particle properties such as crystal shape, effective radius reff, and optical thickness τ on cirrus spectral optical layer properties. Furthermore, the radiative effects of low-level, liquid water (warm) clouds as frequently observed beneath the cirrus are evaluated. They may cause changes in the radiative forcing of the cirrus by a factor of 2. When low-level clouds below the cirrus are not taken into account, the radiative cooling effect (caused by reflection of solar radiation) due to the cirrus in the solar (shortwave) spectral range is significantly overestimated.