Articles | Volume 10, issue 9
Research article
29 Sep 2017
Research article |  | 29 Sep 2017

Cirrus cloud retrieval with MSG/SEVIRI using artificial neural networks

Johan Strandgren, Luca Bugliaro, Frank Sehnke, and Leon Schröder

Abstract. Cirrus clouds play an important role in climate as they tend to warm the Earth–atmosphere system. Nevertheless their physical properties remain one of the largest sources of uncertainty in atmospheric research. To better understand the physical processes of cirrus clouds and their climate impact, enhanced satellite observations are necessary. In this paper we present a new algorithm, CiPS (Cirrus Properties from SEVIRI), that detects cirrus clouds and retrieves the corresponding cloud top height, ice optical thickness and ice water path using the SEVIRI imager aboard the geostationary Meteosat Second Generation satellites. CiPS utilises a set of artificial neural networks trained with SEVIRI thermal observations, CALIOP backscatter products, the ECMWF surface temperature and auxiliary data.

CiPS detects 71 and 95 % of all cirrus clouds with an optical thickness of 0.1 and 1.0, respectively, that are retrieved by CALIOP. Among the cirrus-free pixels, CiPS classifies 96 % correctly. With respect to CALIOP, the cloud top height retrieved by CiPS has a mean absolute percentage error of 10 % or less for cirrus clouds with a top height greater than 8 km. For the ice optical thickness, CiPS has a mean absolute percentage error of 50 % or less for cirrus clouds with an optical thickness between 0.35 and 1.8 and of 100 % or less for cirrus clouds with an optical thickness down to 0.07 with respect to the optical thickness retrieved by CALIOP. The ice water path retrieved by CiPS shows a similar performance, with mean absolute percentage errors of 100 % or less for cirrus clouds with an ice water path down to 1.7 g m−2. Since the training reference data from CALIOP only include ice water path and optical thickness for comparably thin clouds, CiPS also retrieves an opacity flag, which tells us whether a retrieved cirrus is likely to be too thick for CiPS to accurately derive the ice water path and optical thickness.

By retrieving CALIOP-like cirrus properties with the large spatial coverage and high temporal resolution of SEVIRI during both day and night, CiPS is a powerful tool for analysing the temporal evolution of cirrus clouds including their optical and physical properties. To demonstrate this, the life cycle of a thin cirrus cloud is analysed.

Short summary
The new algorithm CiPS is presented and validated. CiPS detects cirrus clouds, identifies opaque pixels and retrieves the corresponding optical thickness, cloud top height and ice water path from the geostationary imager MSG/SEVIRI. CiPS utilises a set of four artificial neural networks trained with space-borne lidar data, thermal MSG/SEVIRI observations, model data and auxiliary data. To demonstrate the capabilities of CiPS, the life cycle of a thin cirrus cloud is analysed.