Articles | Volume 4, issue 1
Research article
28 Jan 2011
Research article |  | 28 Jan 2011

A novel technique for extracting clouds base height using ground based imaging

E. Hirsch, E. Agassi, and I. Koren

Abstract. The height of a cloud in the atmospheric column is a key parameter in its characterization. Several remote sensing techniques (passive and active, either ground-based or on space-borne platforms) and in-situ measurements are routinely used in order to estimate top and base heights of clouds. In this article we present a novel method that combines thermal imaging from the ground and sounded wind profile in order to derive the cloud base height. This method is independent of cloud types, making it efficient for both low boundary layer and high clouds. In addition, using thermal imaging ensures extraction of clouds' features during daytime as well as at nighttime. The proposed technique was validated by comparison to active sounding by ceilometers (which is a standard ground based method), to lifted condensation level (LCL) calculations, and to MODIS products obtained from space. As all passive remote sensing techniques, the proposed method extracts only the height of the lowest cloud layer, thus upper cloud layers are not detected. Nevertheless, the information derived from this method can be complementary to space-borne cloud top measurements when deep-convective clouds are present. Unlike techniques such as LCL, this method is not limited to boundary layer clouds, and can extract the cloud base height at any level, as long as sufficient thermal contrast exists between the radiative temperatures of the cloud and its surrounding air parcel. Another advantage of the proposed method is its simplicity and modest power needs, making it particularly suitable for field measurements and deployment at remote locations. Our method can be further simplified for use with visible CCD or CMOS camera (although nighttime clouds will not be observed).