Articles | Volume 7, issue 10
Research article
13 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 13 Oct 2014

A simple and versatile cloud-screening method for MAX-DOAS retrievals

C. Gielen, M. Van Roozendael, F. Hendrick, G. Pinardi, T. Vlemmix, V. De Bock, H. De Backer, C. Fayt, C. Hermans, D. Gillotay, and P. Wang

Abstract. We present a cloud-screening method based on differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS) measurements, more specifically using intensity measurements and O4 differential slant-column densities (DSCDs). Using the colour index (CI), i.e. the ratio of the radiance at two wavelengths, we define different sky conditions including clear, thin clouds/polluted, fully-cloudy, and heavily polluted. We also flag the presence of broken and scattered clouds. The O4 absorption is a good tracer for cloud-induced light-path changes and is used to detect clouds and discriminate between instances of high aerosol optical depth (AOD) and high cloud optical depth (COD).

We apply our cloud screening to MAX-DOAS (multi-axis DOAS) retrievals at three different sites with different typical meteorological conditions, more specifically suburban Beijing (39.75° N, 116.96° E), Brussels (50.78° N, 4.35° E) and Jungfraujoch (46.55° N, 7.98° E). We find that our cloud screening performs well characterizing the different sky conditions. The flags based on the colour index are able to detect changes in visibility due to aerosols and/or (scattered) clouds. The O4-based multiple-scattering flag is able to detect optically thick clouds, and is needed to correctly identify clouds for sites with extreme aerosol pollution. Removing data taken under cloudy conditions results in a better agreement, in both correlation and slope, between the MAX-DOAS AOD retrievals and measurements from other co-located instruments.