13 Apr 2023
 | 13 Apr 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Retrieving 3D distributions of atmospheric particles using Atmospheric Tomography with 3D Radiative Transfer – Part 2: local optimization

Jesse Loveridge, Aviad Levis, Larry Di Girolamo, Vadim Holodovsky, Linda Forster, Anthony B. Davis, and Yoav Y. Schechner

Abstract. Our global understanding of clouds and aerosols relies on the remote sensing of their optical, microphysical, and macrophysical properties using, in part, scattered solar radiation. Current retrievals assume clouds and aerosols form plane-parallel, homogeneous layers and utilize 1D radiative transfer (RT) models. These assumptions limit the detail that can be retrieved about the 3D variability of cloud and aerosol fields and induce biases in the retrieved properties for highly heterogeneous structures such as cumulus clouds and smoke plumes. In Part 1 of this two-part study, we validated a tomographic method that utilizes multi-angle passive imagery to retrieve 3D distributions of species using 3D RT to overcome these issues. That validation characterized the uncertainty in the approximate Jacobian used in the tomographic retrieval over a wide range of atmospheric and surface conditions for several horizontal boundary conditions. Here in Part 2, we test the algorithm’s effectiveness on synthetic data to test whether retrieval accuracy is limited by the use of the approximate Jacobian. We retrieve 3D distributions of volume extinction coefficient (σ3D) at 40 m resolution from synthetic multi-angle, mono-spectral imagery at 35 m resolution derived from stochastically-generated ‘cumuliform’ clouds in (1 km)3 domains. The retrievals are idealized in that we neglect forward modelling and instrumental errors with the exception of radiometric noise; thus reported retrieval errors are lower bounds. σ3D is retrieved with, on average, a Relative Root Mean Square Error (RRMSE) < 20 % and bias < 0.1 % for clouds with Maximum Optical Depth (MOD) < 17, and the RRMSE of the radiances is < 0.5 %, indicating very high accuracy in shallow cumulus conditions. As the MOD of the clouds increases to 80, the RRMSE and biases in σ3D worsen to 60 % and −35 %, respectively, and the RRMSE of the radiances reaches 16 %, indicating incomplete convergence. This is expected from the increasing ill-conditioning of the inverse problem with decreasing mean-free-path predicted by RT theory and discussed in detail in Part 1. We tested retrievals that use a forward model that is better conditioned but less accurate due to more aggressive delta-M scaling. This reduces the radiance RRMSE to 9 % and the bias in σ3D to −8 % in clouds with MOD ~80, with no improvement in the RRMSE of σ3D. This illustrates a significant sensitivity of the retrieval to the numerical configuration of the RT model which, at least in our circumstances, improves the retrieval accuracy. All of these ensemble-averaged results are robust to the inclusion of radiometric noise during the retrieval. However, individual realizations can have large deviations of up to 18 % in the mean extinction in clouds with MOD ~80, which indicates large uncertainties in the retrievals in the optically thick limit. Using the better conditioned forward model tomography can also accurately infer optical depths (OD) in conditions spanning the majority of oceanic, cumulus fields (MOD < 80) as the retrieval provides OD with bias and RRMSE better than −8 % and 36 %, respectively. This is a significant improvement over retrievals using 1D RT, which have OD biases between −30 % and −23 % and RRMSE between 29 % and 80 % for the clouds used here. Prior information or other sources of information will be required to improve the RRMSE of σ3D in the optically thick limit, where the RRMSE is shown to have strong spatial structure that varies with the solar and viewing geometry.

Jesse Loveridge et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2023-44', Anonymous Referee #2, 01 May 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2023-44', Anonymous Referee #1, 30 May 2023

Jesse Loveridge et al.

Jesse Loveridge et al.


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Short summary
We test a new method for measuring the 3D spatial variations of water within clouds using measurements of reflections of the sun's light observed at multiple angles by satellites. This is a great improvement over older methods which typically assume that clouds occur in a slab shape. Our study used computer modeling to show that our 3D method will work well in cumulus clouds where older slab methods do not. Our method will inform us about these clouds and their role in our climate.