Retrieval of aerosol microphysical and optical properties above liquid clouds from POLDER/PARASOL polarization measurements
Abstract. Most of the current aerosol retrievals from passive sensors are restricted to cloud-free scenes, which strongly reduces our ability to monitor the aerosol properties at a global scale and to estimate their radiative forcing. The presence of aerosol above clouds (AAC) affects the polarized light reflected by the cloud layer, as shown by the spaceborne measurements provided by the POlarization and Directionality of Earth Reflectances (POLDER) instrument on the PARASOL satellite. In a previous work, a first retrieval method was developed for AAC scenes and evaluated for biomass-burning aerosols transported over stratocumulus clouds. The method was restricted to the use of observations acquired at forward scattering angles (90–120°) where polarized measurements are highly sensitive to fine-mode particle scattering. Non-spherical particles in the coarse mode, such as mineral dust particles, do not much polarize light and cannot be handled with this method. In this paper, we present new developments that allow retrieving also the properties of mineral dust particles above clouds. These particles do not much polarize light but strongly reduce the polarized cloud bow generated by the liquid cloud layer beneath and observed for scattering angles around 140°. The spectral attenuation can be used to qualitatively identify the nature of the particles (i.e. accumulation mode versus coarse mode, i.e. mineral dust particles versus biomass-burning aerosols), whereas the magnitude of the attenuation is related to the optical thickness of the aerosol layer. We also use the polarized measurements acquired in the cloud bow to improve the retrieval of both the biomass-burning aerosol properties and the cloud microphysical properties. We provide accurate polarized radiance calculations for AAC scenes and evaluate the contribution of the POLDER polarization measurements for the simultaneous retrieval of the aerosol and cloud properties. We investigate various scenes with mineral dust particles and biomass-burning aerosols above clouds. For clouds, our results confirm that the droplet size distribution is narrow in high-latitude ocean regions and that the droplet effective radii retrieved from both polarization measurements and from total radiance measurements are generally close for AAC scenes (departures smaller than 2 μm). We found that the magnitude of the primary cloud bow cannot be accurately estimated with a plane parallel transfer radiative code. The errors for the modeling of the polarized cloud bow are between 4 and 8% for homogenous cloudy scenes, as shown by a 3-D radiative transfer code. These effects only weakly impact the retrieval of the Aerosol Optical Thickness (AOT) performed with a mineral dust particle model for which the microphysical properties are entirely known (relative error smaller than 6%). We show that the POLDER polarization measurements allow retrieving the AOT, the fine-mode particle size, the Ångström exponent and the fraction of spherical particles. However, the complex refractive index and the coarse-mode particle size cannot be accurately retrieved with the present polarization measurements. Our complete and accurate algorithm cannot be applied to process large amounts of data, so a simpler algorithm was developed to retrieve the AOT and the Ångström exponent above clouds in an operational way. Illustrations are provided for July–August 2008 near the African coast. Large mean AOTs above clouds at 0.865 μm (>0.3) are retrieved for oceanic regions near the coasts of South Africa that correspond to biomass-burning aerosols, whereas even larger mean AOTs above clouds for mineral dust particles (>0.6) are also retrieved near the coasts of Senegal. For these regions and time period, the direct AAC radiative forcing is likely to be significant. The final aim of this work is the global monitoring of the AAC properties and the estimation of the direct aerosol radiative forcing in cloudy scenes.