Atmospheric aerosol characterization with a ground-based SPEX spectropolarimetric instrument
Abstract. Characterization of atmospheric aerosols is important for understanding their impact on health and climate. A wealth of aerosol parameters can be retrieved from multi-angle, multi-wavelength radiance and polarization measurements of the clear sky. We developed a ground-based SPEX instrument (groundSPEX) for accurate spectropolarimetry, based on the passive, robust, athermal, and snapshot spectral polarization modulation technique, and is hence ideal for field deployment. It samples the scattering phase function in the principal plane in an automated fashion, using a motorized pan/tilt unit and automatic exposure time detection. Extensive radiometric and polarimetric calibrations were performed, yielding values for both random noise and systematic uncertainties. The absolute polarimetric accuracy at low degrees of polarization is established to be ~5 × 10−3. About 70 measurement sequences have been performed throughout four clear-sky days at Cabauw, the Netherlands. Several aerosol parameters were retrieved: aerosol optical thickness, effective radius, and complex refractive index for fine and coarse mode. The results are in good agreement with the colocated AERONET products, with a correlation coefficient of ρ = 0.932 for the total aerosol optical thickness at 550 nm.