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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2020-91
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2020-91
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  23 Mar 2020

23 Mar 2020

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A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal AMT and is expected to appear here in due course.

Dissecting effects of orbital drift of polar-orbiting satellites onaccuracy and trends of cloud fractional cover climate data records

Jędrzej S. Bojanowski and Jan P. Musiał Jędrzej S. Bojanowski and Jan P. Musiał
  • Institute of Geodesy and Cartography, Remote Sensing Centre, Modzelewskiego 27, 02-679 Warsaw, Poland

Abstract. Radiometers such as the AVHRR mounted aboard a series of the NOAA and MetOp polar-orbiting satellites provide 4-decade-long global climate data records (CDRs) of cloud fractional cover. Generation of such long datasets requires combining data from consecutive satellite platforms. A varying number of satellites operating simultaneously in the morning and afternoon orbits, together with the satellite orbital drift cause the uneven sampling of the cloudiness diurnal cycle along a course of CDR. This in turn leads to significant biases, spurious trends and inhomogeneities in the data records of climate variables featuring the distinct diurnal cycle (such as clouds). To quantify the uncertainty and magnitude of spurious trends in the AVHRR-based cloudiness CDRs, we sampled the 30-minute reference CM SAF Cloud Fractional Cover dataset derived from Meteosat First and Second Generation (COMET) at times of the NOAA and MetOp satellites overpasses. The sampled cloud fractional cover (CFC) time series were aggregated to monthly means and compared with the reference COMET dataset covering the Meteosat disc (up to 60 degrees N/S/W/E). For individual NOAA/MetOp satellites the errors in mean monthly CFC reach ± 10 % (bias) and ± 7 % per decade (spurious trends). For the combined data record consisting of several NOAA/MetOp satellites, the CFC bias is 3 % and the spurious trends are 1 % per decade. This study proves that before 2002 the AVHRR-derived CFC CDRs do not comply with the GCOS temporal stability requirement of 1 % CFC per decade just due to the satellite orbital drift effect. After this date the requirement is fulfilled due to the numerous NOAA/MetOp satellites operating simultaneously. Yet, the time series starting in 2003 is shorter than 30 years that voids climatological analyses. We expect that the error estimates provided in this study will allow for a correct interpretation of the AVHRR-based CFC CDRs and ultimately will contribute to the development of a novel satellite orbital drift correction methodology widely accepted by the AVHRR-based CDRs providers.

Jędrzej S. Bojanowski and Jan P. Musiał

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Jędrzej S. Bojanowski and Jan P. Musiał

Jędrzej S. Bojanowski and Jan P. Musiał

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Latest update: 27 Nov 2020
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Short summary
Satellites such as NOAA/AVHRR can uniquely observe changes in cloud cover on global or regional scales. Yet, they are affected by the orbital drift that results in shifted image acquisition times, which in turn lead to spurious trends in cloud cover detected during climatological analyses. Providing a detailed quantification of these trends, we show that climate data records must be analysed with caution, as for some periods and regions they do not comply with the requirements for climate data.
Satellites such as NOAA/AVHRR can uniquely observe changes in cloud cover on global or regional...
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