Schuller, L, Bennartz, R, Fischer, J, Brenguier, JL (2005). An algorithm for the retrieval of droplet number concentration and geometrical thickness of stratiform marine boundary layer clouds applied to MODIS radiometric observations. JOURNAL OF APPLIED METEOROLOGY, 44(1), 28-38.
Algorithms are now currently used for the retrieval of cloud optical thickness and droplet effective radius from multispectral radiance measurements. This paper extends their application to the retrieval of cloud droplet number concentration, cloud geometrical thickness, and liquid water path in shallow convective clouds, using an algorithm that was previously tested with airborne measurements of cloud radiances and validated against in situ measurements of the same clouds. The retrieval is based on a stratified cloud model of liquid water content and droplet spectrum. Radiance measurements in visible and near-infrared channels of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), which is operated from the NASA platforms Terra and Aqua, are analyzed. Because of uncertainties in the simulation of the continental surface reflectance, the algorithm is presently limited to the monitoring of the microphysical structure of boundary layer clouds over the ocean. Two MODIS scenes of extended cloud fields over the North Atlantic Ocean trade wind region are processed. A transport and dispersion model (the Hybrid Single-Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory Model, HYSPLIT4) is also used to characterize the origin of the air masses and hence their aerosol regimes. One cloud field formed in an air mass that was advected from southern Europe and North Africa. It shows high values of the droplet concentration when compared with the second cloud system, which developed in a more pristine environment. The more pristine case also exhibits a higher geometrical thickness and, thus, liquid water path, which counterbalances the expected cloud albedo increase of the polluted case. Estimates of cloud liquid water path are then compared with retrievals from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager (SSM/I). SSM/I-derived liquid water paths are in good agreement with the MODIS-derived values.