Articles | Volume 8, issue 11
Research article
24 Nov 2015
Research article |  | 24 Nov 2015

Impact of cloud horizontal inhomogeneity and directional sampling on the retrieval of cloud droplet size by the POLDER instrument

H. Shang, L. Chen, F. M. Bréon, H. Letu, S. Li, Z. Wang, and L. Su

Abstract. The principles of cloud droplet size retrieval via Polarization and Directionality of the Earth's Reflectance (POLDER) requires that clouds be horizontally homogeneous. The retrieval is performed by combining all measurements from an area of 150 km × 150 km to compensate for POLDER's insufficient directional sampling. Using POLDER-like data simulated with the RT3 model, we investigate the impact of cloud horizontal inhomogeneity and directional sampling on the retrieval and analyze which spatial resolution is potentially accessible from the measurements. Case studies show that the sub-grid-scale variability in droplet effective radius (CDR) can significantly reduce valid retrievals and introduce small biases to the CDR (~ 1.5 μm) and effective variance (EV) estimates. Nevertheless, the sub-grid-scale variations in EV and cloud optical thickness (COT) only influence the EV retrievals and not the CDR estimate. In the directional sampling cases studied, the retrieval using limited observations is accurate and is largely free of random noise.

Several improvements have been made to the original POLDER droplet size retrieval. For example, measurements in the primary rainbow region (137–145°) are used to ensure retrievals of large droplet (> 15 μm) and to reduce the uncertainties caused by cloud heterogeneity. We apply the improved method using the POLDER global L1B data from June 2008, and the new CDR results are compared with the operational CDRs. The comparison shows that the operational CDRs tend to be underestimated for large droplets because the cloudbow oscillations in the scattering angle region of 145–165° are weak for cloud fields with CDR > 15 μm. Finally, a sub-grid-scale retrieval case demonstrates that a higher resolution, e.g., 42 km × 42 km, can be used when inverting cloud droplet size distribution parameters from POLDER measurements.

Short summary
The cloud droplet size retrieval of POLDER is accurate even when the measurements are limited. The algorithm can be improved by (1) including the measurements in the primary rainbow region to provide accurate large droplet (>15 µm) retrievals; (2) performing higher-resolution retrieval (42 km × 42 km) to ensure more successful retrievals and reduce the bias introduced by cloud horizontal inhomogeneity.