Articles | Volume 8, issue 24
16 Dec 2008
 | 16 Dec 2008

Cloud phase identification of Arctic boundary-layer clouds from airborne spectral reflection measurements: test of three approaches

A. Ehrlich, E. Bierwirth, M. Wendisch, J.-F. Gayet, G. Mioche, A. Lampert, and J. Heintzenberg

Abstract. Arctic boundary-layer clouds were investigated with remote sensing and in situ instruments during the Arctic Study of Tropospheric Aerosol, Clouds and Radiation (ASTAR) campaign in March and April 2007. The clouds formed in a cold air outbreak over the open Greenland Sea. Beside the predominant mixed-phase clouds pure liquid water and ice clouds were observed. Utilizing measurements of solar radiation reflected by the clouds three methods to retrieve the thermodynamic phase of the cloud are introduced and compared. Two ice indices IS and IP were obtained by analyzing the spectral pattern of the cloud top reflectance in the near infrared (1500–1800 nm wavelength) spectral range which is characterized by ice and water absorption. While IS analyzes the spectral slope of the reflectance in this wavelength range, IS utilizes a principle component analysis (PCA) of the spectral reflectance. A third ice index IA is based on the different side scattering of spherical liquid water particles and nonspherical ice crystals which was recorded in simultaneous measurements of spectral cloud albedo and reflectance.

Radiative transfer simulations show that IS, IP and IA range between 5 to 80, 0 to 8 and 1 to 1.25 respectively with lowest values indicating pure liquid water clouds and highest values pure ice clouds. The spectral slope ice index IS and the PCA ice index IP are found to be strongly sensitive to the effective diameter of the ice crystals present in the cloud. Therefore, the identification of mixed-phase clouds requires a priori knowledge of the ice crystal dimension. The reflectance-albedo ice index IA is mainly dominated by the uppermost cloud layer (τ<1.5). Therefore, typical boundary-layer mixed-phase clouds with a liquid cloud top layer will be identified as pure liquid water clouds. All three methods were applied to measurements above a cloud field observed during ASTAR 2007. The comparison with independent in situ microphysical measurements shows the ability of the three approaches to identify the ice phase in Arctic boundary-layer clouds.

Final-revised paper