Marais, WJ; Holz, RE; Reid, JS; Willett, RM (2020). Leveraging spatial textures, through machine learning, to identify aerosols and distinct cloud types from multispectral observations. ATMOSPHERIC MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES, 13(10), 5459-5480.

Current cloud and aerosol identification methods for multispectral radiometers, such as the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), employ multi-channel spectral tests on individual pixels (i.e., fields of view). The use of the spatial information in cloud and aerosol algorithms has been primarily through statistical parameters such as nonuniformity tests of surrounding pixels with cloud classification provided by the multispectral microphysical retrievals such as phase and cloud top height. With these methodologies there is uncertainty in identifying optically thick aerosols, since aerosols and clouds have similar spectral properties in coarse-spectral-resolution measurements. Furthermore, identifying clouds regimes (e.g., stratiform, cumuliform) from just spectral measurements is difficult, since low-altitude cloud regimes have similar spectral properties. Recent advances in computer vision using deep neural networks provide a new opportunity to better leverage the coherent spatial information in multispectral imagery. Using a combination of machine learning techniques combined with a new methodology to create the necessary training data, we demonstrate improvements in the discrimination between cloud and severe aerosols and an expanded capability to classify cloud types. The labeled training dataset was created from an adapted NASA Worldview platform that provides an efficient user interface to assemble a human-labeled database of cloud and aerosol types. The convolutional neural network (CNN) labeling accuracy of aerosols and cloud types was quantified using independent Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) and MODIS cloud and aerosol products. By harnessing CNNs with a unique labeled dataset, we demonstrate the improvement of the identification of aerosols and distinct cloud types from MODIS and VIIRS images compared to a per-pixel spectral and standard deviation thresholding method. The paper concludes with case studies that compare the CNN methodology results with the MODIS cloud and aerosol products.