Retrievals of thick cloud optical depth from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) by calibration of solar background signal
Yang, Y., Marshak, A., Chiu, J. C., Wiscombe, W. J., Palm, S. P., Davis, A. B., Spangenberg, D. A., Nguyen, L., Spinhirne, J. D. and Minnis, P. (2008) Retrievals of thick cloud optical depth from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS) by calibration of solar background signal. Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences, 65 (11). pp. 3513-3526. ISSN 1520-0469
To link to this article DOI: 10.1175/2008JAS2744.1
Laser beams emitted from the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System (GLAS), as well as other spaceborne laser instruments, can only penetrate clouds to a limit of a few optical depths. As a result, only optical depths of thinner clouds (< about 3 for GLAS) are retrieved from the reflected lidar signal. This paper presents a comprehensive study of possible retrievals of optical depth of thick clouds using solar background light and treating GLAS as a solar radiometer. To do so one must first calibrate the reflected solar radiation received by the photon-counting detectors of the GLAS 532-nm channel, the primary channel for atmospheric products. Solar background radiation is regarded as a noise to be subtracted in the retrieval process of the lidar products. However, once calibrated, it becomes a signal that can be used in studying the properties of optically thick clouds. In this paper, three calibration methods are presented: (i) calibration with coincident airborne and GLAS observations, (ii) calibration with coincident Geostationary Opera- tional Environmental Satellite (GOES) and GLAS observations of deep convective clouds, and (iii) cali- bration from first principles using optical depth of thin water clouds over ocean retrieved by GLAS active remote sensing. Results from the three methods agree well with each other. Cloud optical depth (COD) is retrieved from the calibrated solar background signal using a one-channel retrieval. Comparison with COD retrieved from GOES during GLAS overpasses shows that the average difference between the two retriev- als is 24%. As an example, the COD values retrieved from GLAS solar background are illustrated for a marine stratocumulus cloud field that is too thick to be penetrated by the GLAS laser. Based on this study, optical depths for thick clouds will be provided as a supplementary product to the existing operational GLAS cloud products in future GLAS data releases.
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