Satellite-Observed Location of Stratocumulus Cloud-Top Heights in the Presence of Strong Inversions
Infrared channels on the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) are used to infer cloud-top pressure (CTP), temperature, and effective cloud amount or emissivity. For low clouds, those with tops at pressures greater than 700 hPa, the infrared window 11-mum channel brightness temperature is used to determine the CTP and the corresponding cloud-top temperature by comparison with the temperature profile obtained from the NCEP Global Data Assimilation System meteorological analysis. In the presence of strong inversions which are common for marine stratus and stratocumulus, this leads to the identification of an erroneously high cloud-top height (CTH). This discrepancy is illustrated by comparing MODIS CTHs with those inferred from the geometric method used by the Multiangle Imaging SpectroRadiometer on the same satellite platform, and field observations. The error in CTH is typically about 2 km and depends on the shape of the actual temperature profile. It is shown that column water vapor above cloud retrieved from the MODIS solar infrared channels in the vicinity of the 0.94-mum water vapor absorption band can be used to flag the error and that the location of the true CTH could possibly be obtained using lapse rate formulations for cloud-topped boundary layers.