MISR Dark Water aerosol retrievals: operational algorithm sensitivity to particle non-sphericity
Abstract. The aim of this study is to theoretically investigate the sensitivity of the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) operational (version 22) Dark Water retrieval algorithm to aerosol non-sphericity over the global oceans under actual observing conditions, accounting for current algorithm assumptions. Non-spherical (dust) aerosol models, which were introduced in version 16 of the MISR aerosol product, improved the quality and coverage of retrievals in dusty regions. Due to the sensitivity of the retrieval to the presence of non-spherical aerosols, the MISR aerosol product has been successfully used to track the location and evolution of mineral dust plumes from the Sahara across the Atlantic, for example. However, the MISR global non-spherical aerosol optical depth (AOD) fraction product has been found to have several climatological artifacts superimposed on valid detections of mineral dust, including high non-spherical fraction in the Southern Ocean and seasonally variable bands of high non-sphericity. In this paper we introduce a formal approach to examine the ability of the operational MISR Dark Water algorithm to distinguish among various spherical and non-spherical particles as a function of the variable MISR viewing geometry. We demonstrate the following under the criteria currently implemented: (1) Dark Water retrieval sensitivity to particle non-sphericity decreases for AOD below about 0.1 primarily due to an unnecessarily large lower bound imposed on the uncertainty in MISR observations at low light levels, and improves when this lower bound is removed; (2) Dark Water retrievals are able to distinguish between the spherical and non-spherical particles currently used for all MISR viewing geometries when the AOD exceeds 0.1; (3) the sensitivity of the MISR retrievals to aerosol non-sphericity varies in a complex way that depends on the sampling of the scattering phase function and the contribution from multiple scattering; and (4) non-sphericity artifacts occur at those view-illumination geometries where dust aerosols are indistinguishable from certain types of cirrus particles. Based on these results, we suggest that interested parties use caution with the version 22 MISR Dark Water aerosol non-sphericity product in situations where cirrus may be present.