Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Research article
03 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 03 Feb 2015

A cloud detection algorithm using the downwelling infrared radiance measured by an infrared pyrometer of the ground-based microwave radiometer

M.-H. Ahn, D. Han, H. Y. Won, and V. Morris

Abstract. For better utilization of the ground-based microwave radiometer, it is important to detect the cloud presence in the measured data. Here, we introduce a simple and fast cloud detection algorithm by using the optical characteristics of the clouds in the infrared atmospheric window region. The new algorithm utilizes the brightness temperature (Tb) measured by an infrared radiometer installed on top of a microwave radiometer. The two-step algorithm consists of a spectral test followed by a temporal test. The measured Tb is first compared with a predicted clear-sky Tb obtained by an empirical formula as a function of surface air temperature and water vapor pressure. For the temporal test, the temporal variability of the measured Tb during one minute compares with a dynamic threshold value, representing the variability of clear-sky conditions. It is designated as cloud-free data only when both the spectral and temporal tests confirm cloud-free data. Overall, most of the thick and uniform clouds are successfully detected by the spectral test, while the broken and fast-varying clouds are detected by the temporal test. The algorithm is validated by comparison with the collocated ceilometer data for six months, from January to June 2013. The overall proportion of correctness is about 88.3% and the probability of detection is 90.8%, which are comparable with or better than those of previous similar approaches. Two thirds of discrepancies occur when the new algorithm detects clouds while the ceilometer does not, resulting in different values of the probability of detection with different cloud-base altitude, 93.8, 90.3, and 82.8% for low, mid, and high clouds, respectively. Finally, due to the characteristics of the spectral range, the new algorithm is found to be insensitive to the presence of inversion layers.

Short summary
A new cloud detection algorithm using the downwelling IR radiation has been developed by utilizing the spectral and temporal characteristics of clouds which significantly increase the measured radiance and temporal variability. Algorithm performance is evaluated by collocated ceilometer data showing the proportion of correct and probability of detection values of 88.3% and 90.8%, respectively. The algorithm is found to be insensitive to the presence of the inversion layer.