Implications of satellite swath width on global aerosol optical thickness statistics
1NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dymamics Laboratory (Code 614), USA
2NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Climate and Radiation Laboratory (Code 613), USA
3Science Systems and Applications, Inc., USA
4NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Mesoscale Atmospheric Processes Laboratory (Code 612), USA
Abstract. We assess the impact of swath width on the statistics of aerosol optical thickness (AOT) retrieved by satellite, as inferred from observations made by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS). Using collocated AERONET sun photometer observations we develop a correction to the MODIS data to account for calibration and algorithmic view angle dependency in the retrieved AOT. We sub-sample and correct the AOT data from the MODIS Aqua instrument along several candidate swaths of various widths for the years 2003–2011. We find that over ocean the global, annual mean AOT is within ± 0.01 of the full swath AOT for all of our sub-samples. Over land, however, most of our sub-samples are outside of this criterion range in the global, annual mean. Moreover, at smaller spatial and temporal scales we find wide deviation in the sub-sample AOT relative to the full swath over both land and ocean. In all, the sub-sample AOT is within ± 0.01 of the full swath value less than 25% of the time over land, and less than 50% of the time over ocean (less than 35% for all but the widest of our sub-sample swaths). These results suggest that future aerosol satellite missions having only narrow swath views may not sample the true AOT distribution sufficiently to reduce significantly the uncertainty in aerosol direct forcing of climate.