05 Nov 2021

05 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Horizontal geometry of trade-wind cumuli – aircraft observations from shortwave infrared imager versus radar profiler

Henning Dorff1,2, Heike Konow1,3, and Felix Ament1,3 Henning Dorff et al.
  • 1University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
  • 2International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 3Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract. This study elaborates how aircraft-based horizontal geometries of trade-wind cumulus clouds differ whether a one-dimensional (1D) profiler or a two-dimensional (2D) imager is used. While nadir profiling devices are limited to 1D realisation of the cloud transect size with limited representativeness of horizontal cloud extension, 2D imagers enhance our perspectives by mapping the horizontal cloud field. Both require high-resolution to detect the lower end of the cloud size spectrum.

In this regard, the payload aboard the High Altitude and Long Range Research Aircraft (HALO) achieves a comparison and also a synergy of both measurement systems. Using the NARVAL-II campaign, we combine HALO observations from a 35.2 GHz cloud and precipitation radar (1D) and from the hyperspectral 2D imager specMACS, having a 30 times higher along-track resolution and compare their cloud masks. We examine cloud size distributions in terms of sensitivity to sample size, resolution and the considered field of view (2D or 1D). This specifies impacts on horizontal cloud sizes derived from the across-track perspective of the high-resolution imager in comparison to the radar curtain. We assess whether and how the trade-wind field amplifies uncertainties in cloud geometry observations along 1D transects through directional cloud elongation.

Our findings reveal that each additional dimension, no matter of the device, causes a significant increase of observed clouds. The across-track field yields the highest increase in the cloud sample. The radar encounters difficulties to characterize the trade-wind cumuli size distribution. More than 60 % of clouds are subgrid scale for the radar. While the radar cannot resolve clouds shorter than 200 m and has a lower sensitivity, the amount of small invisible clouds leads to deviations in the size distribution. Double power law characteristics in the imager based cloud size distribution do not occur in radar observations. Along-track measurements do not necessarily cover the predominant cloud extent and inferred geometries lack of representativeness. Trade-wind cumuli show horizontal patterns similar to ellipses with a mean aspect ratio of 3 : 2. Instead of circular estimations based on the 1D transect, elliptic fits maintain the cloud area size distribution. Increasing wind speed tends to stretch clouds more and tilts them into the wind field, which makes transect measurements more representative along this axis.

Henning Dorff et al.

Status: open (until 28 Dec 2021)

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Henning Dorff et al.

Data sets

HALO Microwave Package measurements during Next-generation Remote sensing for VALidation Studies 2 (NARVAL2) Konow, H., Jacob, M., Ament, F., Crewell, S., Ewald, F., Hagen, M., Hirsch, L., Jansen, F., Mech, M., and Stevens, B.

Henning Dorff et al.


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Short summary
This study elaborates how aircraft-based horizontal geometries of trade-wind cumuli differ whether an one-dimensional profiling radar or a two-dimensional imager is used. Cloud size distributions are examined in terms of sensitivity to sample size, resolution and instrument field of view. While the radar cannot reproduce the double power-law distribution due to coarse resolution and restriction to vertical transects, the imager also reveals the elliptic cloud structure enhancing with wind speed.