The impact of sampling strategy on the cloud droplet number concentration estimated from satellite data

Edward Gryspeerdt, Daniel T. McCoy, Ewan Crosbie, Richard H. Moore, Graeme J. Nott, David Painemal, Jennifer Small-Griswold, Armin Sorooshian, Luke Ziemba

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Cloud droplet number concentration (Nd) is of central importance to observation-based estimates of aerosol indirect effects, being used to quantify both the cloud sensitivity to aerosol and the base state of the cloud. However, the derivation of Nd from satellite data depends on a number of assumptions about the cloud and the accuracy of the retrievals of the cloud properties from which it is derived, making it prone to systematic biases. A number of sampling strategies have been proposed to address these biases by selecting the most accurate Nd retrievals in the satellite data. This work compares the impact of these strategies on the accuracy of the satellite retrieved Nd, using a selection of in situ measurements. In stratocumulus regions, the MODIS Nd retrieval is able to achieve a high precision (r2 of 0.5-0.8). This is lower in other cloud regimes but can be increased by appropriate sampling choices. Although the Nd sampling can have significant effects on the Nd climatology, it produces only a 20% variation in the implied radiative forcing from aerosol-cloud interactions, with the choice of aerosol proxy driving the overall uncertainty. The results are summarised into recommendations for using MODIS Nd products and appropriate sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3875-3892
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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