Added value of far-infrared radiometry for remote sensing of ice clouds

Libois, Quentin ; Blanchet, Jean-Pierre

Année de publication
Several cloud retrieval algorithms based on satellite observations in the infrared have been developed in the last decades. However, these observations only cover the midinfrared (MIR, λ < 15 μm) part of the spectrum, and none are available in the far-infrared (FIR, λ≥ 15 μm). Using the optimal estimation method, we show that adding a few FIR channels to existing spaceborne radiometers would significantly improve their ability to retrieve ice cloud radiative properties. For clouds encountered in the polar regions and the upper troposphere, where the atmosphere is sufficiently transparent in the FIR, using FIR channels would reduce by more than 50% the uncertainties on retrieved values of optical thickness, effective particle diameter, and cloud top altitude. Notably, this would extend the range of applicability of current retrieval methods to the polar regions and to clouds with large optical thickness, where MIR algorithms perform poorly. The high performance of solar reflection-based algorithms would thus be reached in nighttime conditions. Since the sensitivity of ice cloud thermal emission to effective particle diameter is approximately 5 times larger in the FIR than in the MIR, using FIR observations is a promising venue for studying ice cloud microphysics and precipitation processes. This is highly relevant for cirrus clouds and convective towers. This is also essential to study precipitation in the driest regions of the atmosphere, where strong feedbacks are at play between clouds and water vapor. The deployment in the near future of a FIR spaceborne radiometer is technologically feasible and should be strongly supported.
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