Articles | Volume 9, issue 7
Research article
26 Jul 2016
Research article |  | 26 Jul 2016

A surface reflectance scheme for retrieving aerosol optical depth over urban surfaces in MODIS Dark Target retrieval algorithm

Pawan Gupta, Robert C. Levy, Shana Mattoo, Lorraine A. Remer, and Leigh A. Munchak

Abstract. The MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments, aboard the two Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites Terra and Aqua, provide aerosol information with nearly daily global coverage at moderate spatial resolution (10 and 3 km). Almost 15 years of aerosol data records are now available from MODIS that can be used for various climate and air-quality applications. However, the application of MODIS aerosol products for air-quality concerns is limited by a reduction in retrieval accuracy over urban surfaces. This is largely because the urban surface reflectance behaves differently than that assumed for natural surfaces. In this study, we address the inaccuracies produced by the MODIS Dark Target (MDT) algorithm aerosol optical depth (AOD) retrievals over urban areas and suggest improvements by modifying the surface reflectance scheme in the algorithm. By integrating MODIS Land Surface Reflectance and Land Cover Type information into the aerosol surface parameterization scheme for urban areas, much of the issues associated with the standard algorithm have been mitigated for our test region, the continental United States (CONUS). The new surface scheme takes into account the change in underlying surface type and is only applied for MODIS pixels with urban percentage (UP) larger than 20 %. Over the urban areas where the new scheme has been applied (UP > 20 %), the number of AOD retrievals falling within expected error (EE %) has increased by 20 %, and the strong positive bias against ground-based sun photometry has been eliminated. However, we note that the new retrieval introduces a small negative bias for AOD values less than 0.1 due to the ultra-sensitivity of the AOD retrieval to the surface parameterization under low atmospheric aerosol loadings. Global application of the new urban surface parameterization appears promising, but further research and analysis are required before global implementation.

Short summary
A new surface scheme inside MODIS dark target aerosol retrieval algorithm has been developed to improve the accuracy of aerosol optical depth data over cities. The new scheme integrates the MODIS land surface reflectance and land cover type information into the surface parameterization for urban areas, much of the issues associated with the standard algorithm have been mitigated for our test region. The improved aerosols data sets will be useful for air quality applications over cities.