Articles | Volume 9, issue 7
Development and technical paper
12 Jul 2016
Development and technical paper |  | 12 Jul 2016

Multi-sensor cloud and aerosol retrieval simulator and remote sensing from model parameters – Part 2: Aerosols

Galina Wind, Arlindo M. da Silva, Peter M. Norris, Steven Platnick, Shana Mattoo, and Robert C. Levy

Abstract. The Multi-sensor Cloud Retrieval Simulator (MCRS) produces a “simulated radiance” product from any high-resolution general circulation model with interactive aerosol as if a specific sensor such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) were viewing a combination of the atmospheric column and land–ocean surface at a specific location. Previously the MCRS code only included contributions from atmosphere and clouds in its radiance calculations and did not incorporate properties of aerosols. In this paper we added a new aerosol properties module to the MCRS code that allows users to insert a mixture of up to 15 different aerosol species in any of 36 vertical layers.

This new MCRS code is now known as MCARS (Multi-sensor Cloud and Aerosol Retrieval Simulator). Inclusion of an aerosol module into MCARS not only allows for extensive, tightly controlled testing of various aspects of satellite operational cloud and aerosol properties retrieval algorithms, but also provides a platform for comparing cloud and aerosol models against satellite measurements. This kind of two-way platform can improve the efficacy of model parameterizations of measured satellite radiances, allowing the assessment of model skill consistently with the retrieval algorithm. The MCARS code provides dynamic controls for appearance of cloud and aerosol layers. Thereby detailed quantitative studies of the impacts of various atmospheric components can be controlled.

In this paper we illustrate the operation of MCARS by deriving simulated radiances from various data field output by the Goddard Earth Observing System version 5 (GEOS-5) model. The model aerosol fields are prepared for translation to simulated radiance using the same model subgrid variability parameterizations as are used for cloud and atmospheric properties profiles, namely the ICA technique. After MCARS computes modeled sensor radiances equivalent to their observed counterparts, these radiances are presented as input to operational remote-sensing algorithms.

Specifically, the MCARS-computed radiances are input into the processing chain used to produce the MODIS Data Collection 6 aerosol product (M{O/Y}D04). The M{O/Y}D04 product is of course normally produced from M{O/Y}D021KM MODIS Level-1B radiance product directly acquired by the MODIS instrument. MCARS matches the format and metadata of a M{O/Y}D021KM product. The resulting MCARS output can be directly provided to MODAPS (MODIS Adaptive Processing System) as input to various operational atmospheric retrieval algorithms. Thus the operational algorithms can be tested directly without needing to make any software changes to accommodate an alternative input source.

We show direct application of this synthetic product in analysis of the performance of the MOD04 operational algorithm. We use biomass-burning case studies over Amazonia employed in a recent Working Group on Numerical Experimentation (WGNE)-sponsored study of aerosol impacts on numerical weather prediction (Freitas et al., 2015). We demonstrate that a known low bias in retrieved MODIS aerosol optical depth appears to be due to a disconnect between actual column relative humidity and the value assumed by the MODIS aerosol product.

Short summary
The MCARS code creates sensor radiances using model-generated atmospheric columns and actual sensor and solar geometry. MCARS output looks like real data, so it is usable by any code that reads MODIS data. MCARS output can be used to test remote-sensing retrieval algorithms. Users know what went into creating the radiance: atmosphere, surface, clouds, and aerosols. Models can use MCARS output to create new parameterizations of relations of atmospheric physical quantities and measured radiances.