A global cloud database from VIRS and MODIS for CERES

Patrick Minnis, David Young, Bruce A. Wielicki, Sunny Sun-Mack, Qing Z. Trepte, Yan Chen, Patrick W. Heck, Xiquan Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The NASA Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) Project has developed a combined radiation and cloud property dataset using the CERES scanners and matched spectral data from high-resolution imagers, the Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS) on the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on Terra and Aqua. The MODIS data are taken globally at least twice per day at two local times while the VIRS data are taken at all times of day over a 46-day precession cycle between 37°N and 37°S. Thus, the diurnal cycle can be well-characterized over most of the globe using the combinations of TRMM, Aqua, and Terra data. The cloud properties are derived from the imagers using state-of-the-art methods and include cloud fraction, height, optical depth, phase, effective particle size, emissivity, and ice or liquid water path. These cloud products are convolved into the matching CERES fields of view using the scanner point spread functions to provide simultaneous cloud and radiation data at an unprecedented accuracy. Results are available for at least 3 years of VIRS data and 1 year of Terra MODIS data. The various cloud products are compared with similar quantities from climatological sources and instantaneous active remote sensors. The cloud amounts are very similar to those from surface observer climatologies and are 6-7% less than those from a satellite-based climatology. Optical depths are 2-3 times smaller than those from the satellite climatology, but are within 5% of those from the surface remote sensing. Cloud droplet sizes and liquid water paths are within 10% of the surface results on average for stratus clouds. The VIRS and MODIS retrievals are very consistent with differences that usually can be explained by sampling, calibration, or resolution differences. The results should be extremely valuable for model validation and improvement and for improving our understanding of the relationship between clouds and the radiation budget.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-126
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - 2002
EventOptical Remote Sensing of the Atmosphere and Clouds III - Hangzhou, China
Duration: Oct 25 2002Oct 27 2002


  • Climatology
  • Cloud microphysics
  • Clouds
  • Radiation
  • Remote sensing
  • VIRS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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