Eliasson, S; Karlsson, KG; Widen, U (2020). A simulator for the CLARA-A2 cloud climate data record and its application to assess EC-Earth polar cloudiness. GEOSCIENTIFIC MODEL DEVELOPMENT, 13(1), 297-314.

This paper describes a new satellite simulator for the CLARA-A2 climate data record (CDR). This simulator takes into account the variable skill in cloud detection in the CLARA-A2 CDR by using a different approach to other similar satellite simulators to emulate the ability to detect clouds. In particular, the paper describes three methods to filter out clouds from climate models undetectable by observations. The first method is comparable to the current simulators in the Cloud Feedback Model Intercomparison Project (CFMIP) Observation Simulator Package (COSP), since it relies on a single visible cloud optical depth at 550 nm (tau(c)) threshold applied globally to delineate cloudy and cloud-free conditions. Methods two and three apply long/lat-gridded values separated by daytime and nighttime conditions. Method two uses gridded varying tc as opposed to method one, which uses just a tau(c) threshold, and method three uses a cloud probability of detection (POD) depending on the model tau(c). The gridded POD values are from the CLARA-A2 validation study by Karlsson and Hakansson (2018). Methods two and three replicate the relative ease or difficulty for cloud retrievals depending on the region and illumination. They increase the cloud sensitivity where the cloud retrievals are relatively straightforward, such as over midlatitude oceans, and they decrease the sensitivity where cloud retrievals are notoriously tricky, such as where thick clouds may be inseparable from cold snow-covered surfaces, as well as in areas with an abundance of broken and small-scale cumulus clouds such as the atmospheric subsidence regions over the ocean. The simulator, together with the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) simulator of the COSP, is used to assess Arctic clouds in the EC-Earth climate model compared to the CLARA-A2 and ISCCP H-Series (ISCCP-H) CDRs. Compared to CLARA-A2, EC-Earth generally underestimates cloudiness in the Arctic. However, compared to ISCCP and its simulator, the opposite conclusion is reached. Based on EC-Earth, this paper shows that the simulated cloud mask of CLARA-A2, using method three, is more representative of the CDR than method one used for the ISCCP simulator. The simulator substantially improves the simulation of the CLARA-A2-detected clouds, especially in the polar regions, by accounting for the variable cloud detection skill over the year. The approach to cloud simulation based on the POD of clouds depending on their tau(c), location, and illumination is the preferred one as it reduces cloudiness over a range of cloud optical depths. Climate model comparisons with satellite-derived information can be significantly improved by this approach, mainly by reducing the risk of misinterpreting problems with satellite retrievals as cloudiness features. Since previous studies found that the CLARA-A2 CDR performs well in the Arctic during the summer months, and that method three is more representative than method one, the conclusion is that EC-Earth likely underestimates clouds in the Arctic summer.