Aerosol and cloud top height information of Envisat MIPAS measurements
von Hobe, M.
Earth and related Environmental sciences
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Infrared limb emission instruments have a long history in measuring clouds and aerosol. In particular, the Michelson Interferometer for Passive Atmospheric Sounding (MIPAS) instrument aboard ESA's Envisat provides 10 years of altitude-resolved global measurements. Previous studies found systematic overestimations and underestimations of cloud top heights for cirrus and polar stratospheric clouds. To assess the cloud top height information and to characterise its uncertainty for the MIPAS instrument we performed simulations for ice clouds, volcanic ash, and sulfate aerosol. From the simulation results we found that in addition to the known effects of the field-of-view that can lead to a cloud top height overestimation, and broken cloud conditions that can lead to underestimation, the cloud extinction also plays an important role. While for optically thick clouds the possible cloud top height overestimation for MIPAS reaches up to 1.6 km due to the field-of-view, for optically thin clouds and aerosol the systematic underestimation reaches 5.1 km. For the detection sensitivity and the degree of underestimation of the MIPAS measurements, the cloud layer thickness also plays a role; 1 km thick clouds are detectable down to extinctions of 5×10−4 km−1 and 6 km thick clouds are detectable down to extinctions of 1×10−4 km−1, where the largest underestimations of the cloud top height occur for the optically thinnest clouds with a vertical extent of 6 km. The relation between extinction coefficient, cloud top height estimate, and layer thickness is confirmed by a comparison of MIPAS cloud top heights of the volcanic sulfate aerosol from the Nabro eruption in 2011 with space- and ground-based lidar measurements and twilight measurements between June 2011 and February 2012. For plumes up to 2 months old, where the extinction was between 1×10−4 and 7×10−4 km−1 and the layer thickness mostly below 4 km, we found for MIPAS an average underestimation of 1.1 km. In the aged plume with extinctions down to 5×10−5 km−1 and layer thicknesses of up to 9.5 km, the underestimation was higher, reaching up to 7.2 km. The dependency of the cloud top height overestimations or underestimations on the extinction coefficient can explain seemingly contradictory results of previous studies. In spite of the relatively large uncertainty range of the cloud top height, the comparison of the detection sensitivity towards sulfate aerosol between MIPAS and a suite of widely used UV/VIS limb and IR nadir satellite aerosol measurements shows that MIPAS provides complementary information in terms of detection sensitivity.
CitationGriessbach, S.; Hoffmann, L.; Spang, R.; Achtert, P.; von Hobe, M.; Mateshvili, N.; Müller, R.; Riese, M.; Rolf, C.; Seifert, P.; Vernier, J.-P. (2020). Aerosol and cloud top height information of Envisat MIPAS measurements. , Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, Vol. 13, Issue 3, 1243-1271, DOI: 10.5194/amt-13-1243-2020.