Articles | Volume 9, issue 16
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 5865–5875, 2009
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 5865–5875, 2009

  19 Aug 2009

19 Aug 2009

The shortwave radiative forcing bias of liquid and ice clouds from MODIS observations

L. Oreopoulos1, S. Platnick1, G. Hong2, P. Yang2, and R. F. Cahalan1 L. Oreopoulos et al.
  • 1Laboratory for Atmospheres, NASA-GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, USA
  • 2Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A{&}M University, College Station, TX, USA

Abstract. We present an assessment of the plane-parallel bias of the shortwave cloud radiative forcing (SWCRF) of liquid and ice clouds at 1 deg scales using global MODIS (Terra and Aqua) cloud optical property retrievals for four months of the year 2005 representative of the meteorological seasons. The (negative) bias is estimated as the difference of SWCRF calculated using the Plane-Parallel Homogeneous (PPH) approximation and the Independent Column Approximation (ICA). PPH calculations use MODIS-derived gridpoint means while ICA calculations use distributions of cloud optical thickness and effective radius. Assisted by a broadband solar radiative transfer algorithm, we find that the absolute value of global SWCRF bias of liquid clouds at the top of the atmosphere is about 6 W m−2 for MODIS overpass times while the SWCRF bias for ice clouds is smaller in absolute terms by about 0.7 W m−2, but with stronger spatial variability. If effective radius variability is neglected and only optical thickness horizontal variations are accounted for, the absolute SWCRF biases increase by about 0.3–0.4 W m−2 on average. Marine clouds of both phases exhibit greater (more negative) SWCRF biases than continental clouds. Finally, morning (Terra)–afternoon (Aqua) differences in SWCRF bias are much more pronounced for ice clouds, up to about 15% (Aqua producing stronger negative bias) on global scales, with virtually all contribution to the difference coming from land areas. The substantial magnitude of the global SWCRF bias, which for clouds of both phases is collectively about 4 W m−2 for diurnal averages, should be considered a strong motivation for global climate modelers to accelerate efforts linking cloud schemes capable of subgrid condensate variability with appropriate radiative transfer schemes.

Final-revised paper