Articles | Volume 6, issue 5
Research article
14 May 2013
Research article |  | 14 May 2013

Ground-based remote sensing of thin clouds in the Arctic

T. J. Garrett and C. Zhao

Abstract. This paper describes a method for using interferometer measurements of downwelling thermal radiation to retrieve the properties of single-layer clouds. Cloud phase is determined from ratios of thermal emission in three "micro-windows" at 862.5 cm−1, 935.8 cm−1, and 988.4 cm−1 where absorption by water vapour is particularly small. Cloud microphysical and optical properties are retrieved from thermal emission in the first two of these micro-windows, constrained by the transmission through clouds of primarily stratospheric ozone emission at 1040 cm−1. Assuming a cloud does not approximate a blackbody, the estimated 95% confidence retrieval errors in effective radius re, visible optical depth τ, number concentration N, and water path WP are, respectively, 10%, 20%, 38% (55% for ice crystals), and 16%. Applied to data from the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement programme (ARM) North Slope of Alaska – Adjacent Arctic Ocean (NSA-AAO) site near Barrow, Alaska, retrievals show general agreement with both ground-based microwave radiometer measurements of liquid water path and a method that uses combined shortwave and microwave measurements to retrieve re, τ and N. Compared to other retrieval methods, advantages of this technique include its ability to characterise thin clouds year round, that water vapour is not a primary source of retrieval error, and that the retrievals of microphysical properties are only weakly sensitive to retrieved cloud phase. The primary limitation is the inapplicability to thicker clouds that radiate as blackbodies and that it relies on a fairly comprehensive suite of ground based measurements.