Toward better understanding of cloud microphysics through combined use of cloud resolving models and remote sensing observations

Related Research Areas
Atmospheric Composition
Project Description
In situ observations indicate the existence of significant and highly variable microphysical structures in marine boundary layer (MBL) clouds due to the combined effects of condensational growth, entrainment mixing, collision-coalescence, and sedimentation. An understanding of this vertical structure (e.g., liquid water content and cloud effective particle radius) is important for a variety of reasons. First, cloud vertical structure reflects the interaction and competition of cloud processes in shaping the macro- and microphysical properties of MBL clouds. Second, an understanding of cloud vertical structure is crucial for assessing the uncertainties caused by the homogeneous cloud assumption in cloud remote sensing. In addition, it is also an essential step toward possible MODIS-based retrieval cloud droplet number concentration (CDNC) and drizzle, two key parameters for studying aerosol indirect effects. Despite its importance, the microphysical structures of MBL clouds on a global scale remains largely unexplored. Although space-borne active sensors, such as CALIOP and CloudSat, are designed to resolve cloud vertical structure, some challenging issues and inherent limitations hinder their application to MBL clouds. The MODIS instruments on both Terra and Aqua have three shortwave infrared (SWIR) bands centered at about 1.6, 2.1 and 3.7 μm. These SWIR bands have different cloud penetration depths, and therefore carry information about different layers in a cloud. Previous studies have shown that the combination of these MODIS bands can be used for studying cloud vertical structure. However, several factors, such as 3-D radiative effects, algorithm issues and instrument radiometric accuracy complicate the information contained in these bands. This Project is motivated by the need for improved knowledge of MBL cloud microphysical structure and the recognized need to understand potential biases in MODIS retrievals. Our objective is to evaluate the cloud vertical structure information content in MODIS-like observations from simulated MBL large-eddy simulation (LES) cloud fields and 3-D radiative transfer models.
Project Administrator(s):
Zhibo Zhang

Members