Articles | Volume 8, issue 9
Research article
07 Sep 2015
Research article |  | 07 Sep 2015

Sensitivity analysis of polarimetric O2 A-band spectra for potential cloud retrievals using OCO-2/GOSAT measurements

S. Sanghavi, M. Lebsock, and G. Stephens

Abstract. Clouds play a crucial role in Earth's radiative budget, yet their climate feedbacks are poorly understood. The advent of space-borne high resolution spectrometers probing the O2 A band, like GOSAT and OCO-2, could make it possible to simultaneously retrieve vertically resolved cloud parameters that play a vital role in Earth's radiative budget, thereby allowing a reduction of the corresponding uncertainty due to clouds. Such retrievals would also facilitate air mass bias reduction in corresponding measurements of CO2 columns.

In this work, the hyperspectral, polarimetric response of the O2 A band to mainly three important cloud parameters, viz., optical thickness, top height and droplet size has been studied, revealing a different sensitivity to each for the varying atmospheric absorption strength within the A band. Cloud optical thickness finds greatest sensitivity in intensity measurements, the sensitivity of other Stokes parameters being limited to low cloud optical thicknesses. Cloud height had a negligible effect on intensity measurements at non-absorbing wavelengths but finds maximum sensitivity at an intermediate absorption strength, which increases with cloud height. The same is found to hold for cloud geometric thickness. The geometry-dependent sensitivity to droplet size is maximum at non-absorbing wavelengths and diminishes with increasing absorption strength. It has been shown that significantly more information on droplet size can be drawn from multi-angle measurements. We find that, in the absence of sunglint, the backscatter hemisphere (scattering angle larger than 90°) is richer in information on droplet size, especially in the glory and rainbow regions. It has been shown that I and Q generally have differing sensitivities to all cloud parameters. Thus, accurate measurements of two orthogonal components IP andIS (as in GOSAT) are expected to contain more information than measurements of only I, Ih or Iv (as in the case of OCO-2).