New airborne retrieval approach for trade wind cumulus properties under overlying cirrus

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Department of Physics


A new retrieval method is presented to derive the optical thickness and effective droplet radius reff of shallow cumulus in the presence of overlying thin cirrus. This new approach allows for a retrieval without a priori knowledge of the microphysical and optical properties of the overlying cirrus. The retrieval is applied to helicopter-borne solar spectral reflectivity measurements gathered by the Spectral Modular Airborne Radiation measurements sysTem (SMART-HELIOS) above trade wind cumuli near Barbados. Collocated microphysical cumulus properties (liquid water content, effective droplet radius, droplet number concentration) were measured by in situ instruments installed on the Airborne Cloud Turbulence Observation System (ACTOS). Cloud inhomogeneities lead to an underestimation of retrieved of up to 114%, while reff is biased by up to 27%. Moreover, misrepresentation of the overlying cirrus may cause an overestimation of the classically retrieved cumulus reff of up to 50% and an underestimation of of up to 6%. The new retrieval, effectively correcting for the influence of overlying cirrus, enables reliable estimates of of the cumuli for optically thin, overcast cirrus conditions and reduces the retrieval error for reff of the cumuli by almost 50%. Agreement between in situ measured and retrieved reff is in the range of ?1 m. The retrieval can also reproduce the wide range of in situ measured mean reff (7-18 m), which is a result of different aerosol load and cloud top heights on the different flight days. The observed ranges between 5 and 36.

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© 2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres