Detection of aerosol and cloud features for the EarthCARE atmospheric lidar (ATLID): the ATLID FeatureMask (A-FM) product

Gerd-Jan van Zadelhoff; David P. Donovan; Ping Wang

The EarthCARE satellite mission's objective is to retrieve profiles of aerosol and cloud physical and optical properties using the combination of cloud-profiling radar (CPR), high-spectral-resolution UV lidar (ATLID) and passive multi-spectral imager (MSI) data. Based on synergistic retrievals using data from these instruments, the 3D atmospheric cloud–aerosol state is estimated and then used to model the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) broadband radiances, which may then be compared to co-incident EarthCARE broadband radiometer (BBR) measurements. A high-spectral-resolution lidar enables the independent retrieval of extinction and backscatter but, being space based, suffers from relatively low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) levels. The ATLID FeatureMask (A-FM) product provides a feature detection mask for the existence of atmospheric features within the lidar profiles based on a number of (statistical) image reconstruction techniques. Next to this, it also identifies those regions where the lidar beam has been fully attenuated and where the surface backscatter has impacted the measured lidar backscatter signals directly above the surface. From the pixels assigned as clear sky (with no features present above), the clear-sky-averaged profiles for the three ATLID channels, the co-polar Mie channel, the total cross channel and the co-polar Rayleigh channel are created. These feature-free or clear-sky profiles are useful for e.g., assessing the quality of the ATLID Level-1 (L1) attenuated backscatters. An important goal of the A-FM product is to guide smoothing strategies within downstream processors e.g., the ATLID profile retrieval (A-PRO) algorithm which directly follows A-FM within the EarthCARE Level-2 (L2) processing chain. Within the A-PRO algorithm, profiles of extinction, backscatter and linear depolarization ratio are retrieved. However, smoothing of the ATLID L1 attenuated backscatter is necessary since the SNR levels present at the ATLID native resolution are generally not sufficient for meaningful retrievals to be conducted. At the same time, to prevent biased retrievals, any smoothing procedure must respect the cloud–aerosol structure and avoid mixing strong features, e.g., clouds, and weak features, e.g., aerosol regions, together. The A-FM product provides the A-PRO algorithm with important information that is used to guide various smoothing procedures. To enable the processing of the large datasets from observation up to L2 retrievals, each EarthCARE orbit is separated into eight frames, divided at latitudes of 22.5∘ N and 22.5∘ S and 62.5∘ N and 62.5∘ S. As a secondary product, A-FM outputs can be used to conduct a frame-by-frame evaluation of the ATLID L1 cross-talk calibration, where an EarthCARE frame is one-eighth of a full orbit. This evaluation can be performed by comparing the retrieved clear-sky profiles to the expected channel profiles. The A-FM product has been applied to both synthetic data from the EarthCARE end-to-end simulator (ECSIM) and the L1 data from the Aeolus wind lidar mission. Comparisons against the ECSIM model truth indicate that A-FM has a percentage correctness > 90 % and is capable of reliably detecting aerosol and cloud regions within extinctions (> 10−5 m−1).

Bibliographic data

Gerd-Jan van Zadelhoff; David P. Donovan; Ping Wang . Detection of aerosol and cloud features for the EarthCARE atmospheric lidar (ATLID): the ATLID FeatureMask (A-FM) product
Journal: Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, Volume: 16, Year: 2023, First page: 3631, Last page: 3651, doi: 10.5194/amt-16-3631-2023