Remote sensing the vertical profile of cloud droplet effective radius,...

Martins, J. V., A. Marshak, L. Remer, D. Rosenfeld, Y. J. Kaufman, R. Fernandez-Borda, I. Koren, A. L. Correia, V. Zubko, and P. Artaxo (2011), Remote sensing the vertical profile of cloud droplet effective radius, thermodynamic phase, and temperature, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 11, 9485-9501, doi:10.5194/acp-11-9485-2011.

Cloud-aerosol interaction is a key issue in the climate system, affecting the water cycle, the weather, and the total energy balance including the spatial and temporal distribution of latent heat release. Information on the vertical distribution of cloud droplet microphysics and thermodynamic phase as a function of temperature or height, can be correlated with details of the aerosol field to provide insight on how these particles are affecting cloud properties and their consequences to cloud lifetime, precipitation, water cycle, and general energy balance. Unfortunately, today’s experimental methods still lack the observational tools that can characterize the true evolution of the cloud microphysical, spatial and temporal structure in the cloud droplet scale, and then link these characteristics to environmental factors and properties of the cloud condensation nuclei.

Here we propose and demonstrate a new experimental approach (the cloud scanner instrument) that provides the microphysical information missed in current experiments and remote sensing options. Cloud scanner measurements can be performed from aircraft, ground, or satellite by scanning the side of the clouds from the base to the top, providing us with the unique opportunity of obtaining snapshots of the cloud droplet microphysical and thermodynamic states as a function of height and brightness temperature in clouds at several development stages. The brightness temperature profile of the cloud side can be directly associated with the thermodynamic phase of the droplets to provide information on the glaciation temperature as a function of different ambient conditions, aerosol concentration, and type. An aircraft prototype of the cloud scanner was built and flew in a field campaign in Brazil.

The CLAIM-3D (3-Dimensional Cloud Aerosol Interaction Mission) satellite concept proposed here combines several techniques to simultaneously measure the vertical profile of cloud microphysics, thermodynamic phase, brightness temperature, and aerosol amount and type in the neighborhood of the clouds. The wide wavelength range, and the use of multi-angle polarization measurements proposed for this mission allow us to estimate the availability and characteristics of aerosol particles acting as cloud condensation nuclei, and their effects on the cloud microphysical structure. These results can provide unprecedented details on the response of cloud droplet microphysics to natural and anthropogenic aerosols in the size scale where the interaction really happens.

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Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)