Global CALIPSO Observations of Aerosol Changes Near Clouds

Várnai, T., and A. Marshak (2011), Global CALIPSO Observations of Aerosol Changes Near Clouds, Geosci. Remote Sens. Lett., 8, 19-23, doi:10.1109/LGRS.2010.2049982.

Several recent studies have found that clouds are surrounded by a transition zone of rapidly changing aerosol optical properties and particle size. Characterizing this transition zone is important for better understanding aerosol–cloud interactions and aerosol radiative effects, and also for improving satellite retrievals of aerosol properties. This letter presents a statistical analysis of a monthlong global data set of Cloud–Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) lidar observations over oceans. The results show that the transition zone is ubiquitous over all oceans and extends up to 15 km away from clouds. They also show that near-cloud enhancements in backscatter and particle size are strongest at low altitudes, slightly below the top of the nearest clouds. Also, the enhancements are similar near illuminated and shadowy cloud sides, which confirms that the asymmetry of Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer reflectances found in an earlier study comes from 3-D radiative processes and not from differences in aerosol properties. Finally, the effects of CALIPSO aerosol detection and cloud identification uncertainties are discussed. The findings underline the importance of accounting for the transition zone to avoid potential biases in studies of satellite aerosol products, aerosol–cloud interactions, and aerosol direct radiative effects.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)