MODIS 3 km aerosol product: applications over land in an urban/suburban region
Abstract. MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites have provided a rich dataset of aerosol information at a 10 km spatial scale. Although originally intended for climate applications, the air quality community quickly became interested in using the MODIS aerosol data. However, 10 km resolution is not sufficient to resolve local scale aerosol features. With this in mind, MODIS Collection 6 includes a global aerosol product with a 3 km resolution. Here, we evaluate the 3 km product over the Baltimore–Washington D.C., USA, corridor during the summer of 2011 by comparing with spatially dense aerosol data measured by airborne High Spectral Resolution Lidar (HSRL) and a network of 44 sun photometers (SP) spaced approximately 10 km apart, collected as part of the DISCOVER-AQ field campaign. The HSRL instrument shows that AOD can vary by over 0.2 within a single 10 km MODIS pixel, meaning that higher resolution satellite retrievals may help to better characterize aerosol spatial distributions in this region. Different techniques for validating a high-resolution aerosol product against SP measurements are considered. Although the 10 km product is more statistically reliable than the 3 km product, the 3 km product still performs acceptably with nearly two-thirds of MODIS/SP collocations falling within an expected error envelope with high correlation (R > 0.90), although with a high bias of ~ 0.06. The 3 km product can better resolve aerosol gradients and retrieve closer to clouds and shorelines than the 10 km product, but tends to show more noise, especially in urban areas. This urban degradation is quantified using ancillary land cover data. Overall, we show that the MODIS 3 km product adds new information to the existing set of satellite derived aerosol products and validates well over the region, but due to noise and problems in urban areas, should be treated with some degree of caution.