Marchant, B; Platnick, S; Meyer, K; Wind, G (2020). Evaluation of the MODIS Collection 6 multilayer cloud detection algorithm through comparisons with CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar and CALIPSO CALIOP products. ATMOSPHERIC MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES, 13(6), 3263-3275.

Since multilayer cloud scenes are common in the atmosphere and can be an important source of uncertainty in passive satellite sensor cloud retrievals, the MODIS MODO6 and MYD06 standard cloud optical property products include a multilayer cloud detection algorithm to assist with data quality assessment. This paper presents an evaluation of the Aqua MODIS MYD06 Collection 6 multilayer cloud detection algorithm through comparisons with active Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) and Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) products that have the ability to provide cloud vertical distributions and directly classify multilayer cloud scenes and layer properties. To compare active sensor products with an imager such as MODIS, it is first necessary to define multilayer clouds in the context of their radiative impact on cloud retrievals. Three main parameters have thus been considered in this evaluation: (1) the maximum separation distance between two cloud layers, (2) the thermodynamic phase of those layers and (3) the upper-layer cloud optical thickness. The impact of including the Pavolonis-Heidinger multilayer cloud detection algorithm, introduced in Collection 6, to assist with multilayer cloud detection has also been assessed. For the year 2008, the MYD06 C6 multilayer cloud detection algorithm identifies roughly 20 % of all cloudy pixels as multilayer (decreasing to about 13 % if the Pavolonis-Heidinger algorithm output is not used). Evaluation against the merged CPR and CALIOP 2B-CLDCLASS-lidar product shows that the MODIS multilayer detection results are quite sensitive to how multilayer clouds are defined in the radar and lidar product and that the algorithm performs better when the optical thickness of the upper cloud layer is greater than about 1.2 with a minimum layer separation distance of 1 km. Finally, we find that filtering the MYD06 cloud optical properties retrievals using the multilayer cloud flag improves aggregated statistics, particularly for ice cloud effective radius.