Articles | Volume 18, issue 16
Research article
22 Aug 2018
Research article |  | 22 Aug 2018

Scale dependence of cirrus heterogeneity effects. Part II: MODIS NIR and SWIR channels

Thomas Fauchez, Steven Platnick, Tamás Várnai, Kerry Meyer, Céline Cornet, and Frédéric Szczap

Abstract. In a context of global climate change, the understanding of the radiative role of clouds is crucial. On average, ice clouds such as cirrus have a significant positive radiative effect, but under some conditions the effect may be negative. However, many uncertainties remain regarding the role of ice clouds on Earth's radiative budget and in a changing climate. Global satellite observations are particularly well suited to monitoring clouds, retrieving their characteristics and inferring their radiative impact. To retrieve ice cloud properties (optical thickness and ice crystal effective size), current operational algorithms assume that each pixel of the observed scene is plane-parallel and homogeneous, and that there is no radiative connection between neighboring pixels. Yet these retrieval assumptions are far from accurate, as real radiative transfer is 3-D. This leads to the plane-parallel and homogeneous bias (PPHB) plus the independent pixel approximation bias (IPAB), which impacts both the estimation of top-of-the-atmosphere (TOA) radiation and the retrievals. An important factor that determines the impact of these assumptions is the sensor spatial resolution. High-spatial-resolution pixels can better represent cloud variability (low PPHB), but the radiative path through the cloud can involve many pixels (high IPAB). In contrast, low-spatial-resolution pixels poorly represent the cloud variability (high PPHB), but the radiation is better contained within the pixel field of view (low IPAB). In addition, the solar and viewing geometry (as well as cloud optical properties) can modulate the magnitude of the PPHB and IPAB. In this, Part II of our study, we simulate TOA 0.86 and 2.13 µm solar reflectances over a cirrus uncinus scene produced by the 3DCLOUD model. Then, 3-D radiative transfer simulations are performed with the 3DMCPOL code at spatial resolutions ranging from 50 m to 10 km, for 12 viewing geometries and nine solar geometries. It is found that, for simulated nadir observations taken at resolution higher than 2.5 km, horizontal radiation transport (HRT) dominates biases between 3-D and 1-D reflectance calculations, but these biases are mitigated by the side illumination and shadowing effects for off-zenith solar geometries. At resolutions coarser than 2.5 km, PPHB dominates. For off-nadir observations at resolutions higher than 2.5 km, the effect that we call THEAB (tilted and homogeneous extinction approximation bias) due to the oblique line of sight passing through many cloud columns contributes to a large increase of the reflectances, but 3-D radiative effects such as shadowing and side illumination for oblique Sun are also important. At resolutions coarser than 2.5 km, the PPHB is again the dominant effect. The magnitude and resolution dependence of PPHB and IPAB is very different for visible, near-infrared and shortwave infrared channels compared with the thermal infrared channels discussed in Part I of this study. The contrast of 3-D radiative effects between solar and thermal infrared channels may be a significant issue for retrieval techniques that simultaneously use radiative measurements across a wide range of solar reflectance and infrared wavelengths.

Short summary
This paper presents the impact of cirrus cloud heterogeneities and 3-D effects on TOA solar reflectances from 50 m to 10 km spatial resolutions. We have shown that these effects are strongly dependent on spatial resolution as well as solar and viewing geometries and that it is difficult to find an optimal spatial resolution minimizing these various effects.
Final-revised paper