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Coakley, JA, Friedman, MA, Tahnk, WR (2005). Retrieval of cloud properties for partly cloudy imager pixels. JOURNAL OF ATMOSPHERIC AND OCEANIC TECHNOLOGY, 22(1), 3-17.

Retrievals of cloud properties from satellite imagery often invoke the assumption that the fields of view are overcast when cloud-contaminated, even though a significant fraction are only partially cloud-covered. The overcast assumption leads to biases in the retrieved cloud properties: cloud amounts and droplet effective radii are typically overestimated, while visible optical depths, cloud altitudes, cloud liquid water amounts, and column droplet number concentrations are typically underestimated. In order to estimate these biases, a retrieval scheme was developed to obtain the properties of clouds for partially covered imager fields of view. The partly cloudy pixel retrieval scheme is applicable to single-layered cloud systems and invokes the assumption that clouds that only partially cover a field of view are at the same altitude as nearby clouds from the same layer that completely cover imager pixels. The properties of the retrieval are illustrated through its application to 2-km Visible and Infrared Scanner (VIRS) data from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) for a marine stratocumulus scene. The scene was chosen because the cloud properties are typical of such systems based on an analysis of VIRS data for February and March 1998. Comparisons of properties for clouds in partly cloudy pixels and those for clouds in nearby overcast pixels reveal that the optical depths and droplet effective radii are generally smaller for the clouds in the partly cloudy pixels. In addition, for pixel-scale cloud fractions between 0.2 and 0.8, optical depth, droplet effective radius, and column droplet number concentration decrease slowly with decreasing cloud cover fraction. The changes are only about 20%-30%, while cloud cover fraction changes by 80%. For comparison, changes in optical depth and column number concentration retrieved using a threshold method decrease by 80%-90%. As long as the cloud cover in partly cloudy pixels is greater than about 0.1, uncertainties in the estimates of the cloud altitudes and of the radiances for the cloud-free portions of the fields of view give rise to uncertainties in the retrieved cloud properties that are comparable to the uncertainties in the properties retrieved for overcast pixels.



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