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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 5, issue 10
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 2537–2553, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: Remote sensing of aerosols and clouds (EGU2011)

Atmos. Meas. Tech., 5, 2537–2553, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 26 Oct 2012

Research article | 26 Oct 2012

MIPAS detection of cloud and aerosol particle occurrence in the UTLS with comparison to HIRDLS and CALIOP

H. Sembhi1, J. Remedios1, T. Trent1, D. P. Moore1, R. Spang2, S. Massie3, and J.-P. Vernier3 H. Sembhi et al.
  • 1Earth Observation Science, Space Research Centre, Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  • 2Institute for Energy and Climate Research – Stratosphere (IEK-7), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 52425 Jülich, Germany
  • 3NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, USA

Abstract. Satellite infrared emission instruments require efficient systems that can separate and flag observations which are affected by clouds and aerosols. This paper investigates the identification of cloud and aerosols from infrared, limb sounding spectra that were recorded by the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS), a high spectral resolution Fourier transform spectrometer on the European Space Agency's (ESA) ENVISAT (Now inoperative since April 2012 due to loss of contact). Specifically, the performance of an existing cloud and aerosol particle detection method is simulated with a radiative transfer model in order to establish, for the first time, confident detection limits for particle presence in the atmosphere from MIPAS data. The newly established thresholds improve confidence in the ability to detect particle injection events, plume transport in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS) and better characterise cloud distributions utilising MIPAS spectra. The method also provides a fast front-end detection system for the MIPClouds processor; a processor designed for the retrieval of macro- and microphysical cloud properties from the MIPAS data.

It is shown that across much of the stratosphere, the threshold for the standard cloud index in band A is 5.0 although threshold values of over 6.0 occur in restricted regimes. Polar regions show a surprising degree of uncertainty at altitudes above 20 km, potentially due to changing stratospheric trace gas concentrations in polar vortex conditions and poor signal-to-noise due to cold atmospheric temperatures. The optimised thresholds of this study can be used for much of the time, but time/composition-dependent thresholds are recommended for MIPAS data for the strongly perturbed polar stratosphere. In the UT, a threshold of 5.0 applies at 12 km and above but decreases rapidly at lower altitudes. The new thresholds are shown to allow much more sensitive detection of particle distributions in the UTLS, with extinction detection limits above 13 km often better than 10−4 km−1, with values approaching 10−5 km−1 in some cases.

Comparisons of the new MIPAS results with cloud data from HIRDLS and CALIOP, outside of the poles, establish a good agreement in distributions (cloud and aerosol top heights and occurrence frequencies) with an offset between MIPAS and the other instruments of 0.5 km to 1 km between 12 km and 20 km, consistent with vertical oversampling of extended cloud layers within the MIPAS field of view. We conclude that infrared limb sounders provide a very consistent picture of particles in the UTLS, allowing detection limits which are consistent with the lidar observations. Investigations of MIPAS data for the Mount Kasatochi volcanic eruption on the Aleutian Islands and the Black Saturday fires in Australia are used to exemplify how useful MIPAS limb sounding data were for monitoring aerosol injections into the UTLS. It is shown that the new thresholds allowed such events to be much more effectively derived from MIPAS with detection limits for these case studies of 1 × 10−5 km−1 at a wavelength of 12 μm.

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