Articles | Volume 5, issue 10
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 2361–2374, 2012
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 2361–2374, 2012

Research article 08 Oct 2012

Research article | 08 Oct 2012

Remote sensing of ice crystal asymmetry parameter using multi-directional polarization measurements – Part 1: Methodology and evaluation with simulated measurements

B. van Diedenhoven1,2, B. Cairns2, I. V. Geogdzhayev2,3, A. M. Fridlind2, A. S. Ackerman2, P. Yang4, and B. A. Baum5 B. van Diedenhoven et al.
  • 1Columbia University, Center for Climate System Research, New York, NY, USA
  • 2NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, NY, USA
  • 3Columbia University, Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics, New York, NY, USA
  • 4Texas A & M University, Department of Atmospheric Sciences, College Station, TX, USA
  • 5Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Abstract. We present a new remote sensing technique to infer the average asymmetry parameter of ice crystals near cloud top from multi-directional polarization measurements. The method is based on previous findings that (a) complex aggregates of hexagonal crystals generally have scattering phase matrices resembling those of their components; and (b) scattering phase matrices systematically vary with aspect ratios of crystals and their degree of microscale surface roughness. Ice cloud asymmetry parameters are inferred from multi-directional polarized reflectance measurements by searching for the closest fit in a look-up table of simulated polarized reflectances computed for cloud layers that contain individual, randomly oriented hexagonal columns and plates with varying aspect ratios and roughness values. The asymmetry parameter of the hexagonal particle that leads to the best fit with the measurements is considered the retrieved value. For clouds with optical thickness less than 5, the cloud optical thickness must be retrieved simultaneously with the asymmetry parameter, while for optically thicker clouds the asymmetry parameter retrieval is independent of cloud optical thickness. Evaluation of the technique using simulated measurements based on the optical properties of a number of complex particles and their mixtures shows that the ice crystal asymmetry parameters are generally retrieved to within 5%, or about 0.04 in absolute terms. The retrieval scheme is largely independent of calibration errors, range and sampling density of scattering angles and random noise in the measurements. The approach can be applied to measurements of past, current and future airborne and satellite instruments that measure multi-directional polarized reflectances of ice-topped clouds.