Benedetti, A, Janiskova, M (2008). Assimilation of MODIS cloud optical depths in the ECMWF model. MONTHLY WEATHER REVIEW, 136(5), 1727-1746.
At the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), a large effort has recently been devoted to define and implement moist physics schemes for variational assimilation of rain- and cloud-affected brightness temperatures. This study expands on the current application of the new linearized moist physics schemes to assimilate cloud optical depths retrieved from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board the Aqua platform for the first time in the ECMWF operational four-dimensional assimilation system. Model optical depths are functions of ice water and liquid water contents through established parameterizations. Linearized cloud schemes in turn link these cloud variables with temperature and humidity. A bias correction is applied to the optical depths to minimize the differences between model and observations. The control variables in the assimilation are temperature, humidity, winds, and surface pressure. One-month assimilation experiments for April 2006 demonstrated an impact of the assimilated MODIS cloud optical depths on the model fields, particularly temperature and humidity. Comparison with independent observations indicates a positive effect of the cloud information assimilated into the model, especially on the amount and distribution of the ice water content. The impact of the cloud assimilation on the medium-range forecast is neutral to slightly positive. Most importantly, this study demonstrates that global assimilation of cloud observations in ECMWF four-dimensional variational assimilation system (4DVAR) is technically doable but a continued research effort is necessary to achieve clear positive impacts with such data.