Empirical model for longwave and midwave radiometric and spatial characteristics of clouds for target detection considerations

Patrick Leslie, Robert Grimming, Sarina Grijalva, Steven Butrimas, Ronald Driggers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The presence of clouds affects the detection of small airborne targets for infrared imaging. Clouds increase the signal of the background and create nonuniformity behind a desired target. This results in low and varying contrast. Clear sky conditions provide a low noise, uniform background that gives a better chance of detection. Understanding key variables of the clouds nonuniform structure allows for better detection and for accurate infrared search and track (IRST) models. Atmospheric modeling software, such as moderate resolution atmospheric transmission (MODTRAN), provides background path radiance in the emissive midwave infrared and longwave infrared bands. These modeled skies have been matched with measured skies in various conditions with low error. MODTRAN clouds, however, assume total cloud cover of uniform thickness and no varying transmission. MODTRAN clouds do not consider the spatially and radiometrically varying structures that make clouds unique. Studied spatial and radiometric characteristics of clouds are used in an empirical approach to predict cloud radiometric temperatures and structures with four simple equations. These cloud properties are measured at night to avoid solar contributions and focus on their emissive characteristics. The empirically modeled clouds are projections from measured or MODTRAN modeled clear skies. This method of modeling clouds allows for easy implementation of a nonclear sky background into IRST models. The range in which a target is first detected from its background can now be compared between clear and cloudy skies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35105
Number of pages1
JournalOptical Engineering
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • clouds
  • infrared
  • longwave infrared
  • midwave infrared
  • radiometry
  • target detection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Engineering(all)


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