Comparison of marine boundary layer cloud properties from CERES-MODIS Edition 4 and DOE ARM AMF measurements at the Azores

Baike Xi, Xiquan Dong, Patrick Minnis, Sunny Sun-Mack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Marine boundary layer (MBL) cloud properties derived from the NASA Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) project using Terra and Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data are compared with observations taken at the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Mobile Facility at the Azores (AMF-Azores) site from June 2009 through December 2010. Cloud properties derived from ARM ground-based observations were averaged over a 1 h interval centered at the satellite overpass time, while the CERES-MODIS (CM) results were averaged within a 30km×30kmgrid box centered over the Azores site. A total of 63 daytime and 92 nighttime single-layered overcast MBL cloud cases were selected from 19 months of ARM radar-lidar and satellite observations. The CM cloud top/base heights (Htop/Hbase) were determined from cloud top/base temperatures (Ttop/Tbase) using a regional boundary layer lapse rate method. For daytime comparisons, the CM-derived Htop (Hbase), on average, is 0.063 km (0.068 km) higher (lower) than its ARM radar-lidar-observed counterpart, and the CM-derived Ttop and Tbase are 0.9 K less and 2.5 K greater than the surface values with high correlations (R-2 = 0.82 and 0.84, respectively). In general, the cloud top comparisons agree better than the cloud base comparisons, because the CM cloud base temperatures and heights are secondary products determined from cloud top temperatures and heights. No significant day-night difference was found in the analyses. The comparisons of MBL cloud microphysical properties reveal that when averaged over a 30 km × 30 km area, the CM-retrieved cloud droplet effective radius (re) at 3.7μm is 1.3μm larger than that from the ARM retrievals (12.8 μm), while the CM-retrieved cloud liquid water path (LWP) is 13.5 gm-2 less than its ARM counterpart (114.2 gm-2) due to its small optical depth (9.6 versus 13.7). The differences are reduced by 50% when the CM averages are computed only using the MODIS pixel nearest the AMF site. Using the effective radius retrieved using 2.1 μm channel to calculate LWP can reduce the difference between the CM and ARM microwave radiometer retrievals from 13.7 to 2.1 gm-2. The 10% differences between the ARM and CERES-MODIS LWP and re retrievals are within the uncertainties of the ARM LWP (~20 gm-2) and re (~10%) retrievals; however, the 30% difference in optical depth is significant. Possible reasons contributing to this discrepancy are increased sensitivities in optical depth from both surface retrievals when τ~10 and topography. The τ differences vary with wind direction and are consistent with the island orography. Much better agreement in τ is obtained when using only those data taken when the wind is from the northeast, where topographical effects on the sampled clouds are minimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9509-9529
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of geophysical research
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 16 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Oceanography
  • Forestry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Soil Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Palaeontology


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