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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2019-103
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/amt-2019-103
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 03 Apr 2019

Research article | 03 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Atmospheric Measurement Techniques (AMT).

Assessing the Stability of Surface Lights for use in Retrievals of Nocturnal Atmospheric Parameters

Jeremy E. Solbrig1, Steven D. Miller1, Jianglong Zhang2, Lewis Grasso1, and Anton Kliewer1 Jeremy E. Solbrig et al.
  • 1Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, USA
  • 2Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Grand Forks, ND, 58202, USA

Abstract. Detection and characterization of aerosols is inherently limited at night due to a lack of sensitivity—information typically provided by visible spectrum observations. The VIIRS Day/Night Band (DNB) onboard the Suomi-NPP satellite is a first-of-its-kind calibrated sensor capable of collecting visible/near-infrared observations during both day and night. Multiple studies have suggested that anthropogenic light emissions such as those from cities and gas flares may be useable as light sources for retrieval of atmospheric properties including cloud and aerosol optical depth. However, their use in this capacity requires proper characterization of their intrinsic variation, which represents a source of retrieval uncertainty. In this study we use 18 months of cloud-cleared VIIRS data collected over five selected geographic domains to assess the stability of anthropogenic light emissions and their response to varied satellite and lunar geometries. Timeseries are developed for each location in each domain for DNB radiance, four infrared channels, and satellite and lunar geometric variables, and spatially-resolved correlation coefficients are computed between DNB radiance and each of the other variables. This analysis finds that while many emissive light sources are too unstable to be used reliably for atmospheric retrievals, some sources exhibit a sufficient stability (relative standard deviation < 20 %). Additionally, we find that while the radiance variability of surrounding surfaces (i.e. unpopulated land and ocean) is largely dependent on lunar geometry, the anthropogenic light sources are more strongly correlated to satellite viewing geometry. Understanding the spatially-resolved relationships between DNB radiance and other parameters is a necessary first step towards characterizing anthropogenic light emissions and establishes a framework for a model to describe variability in a more general sense.

Jeremy E. Solbrig et al.
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Jeremy E. Solbrig et al.
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Short summary
New satellite sensors are able to view visible light, such as that emitted by cities, at night. It may be possible to use the light from cities to assess the amount of particulate matter in the atmosphere and the thickness of clouds. To do this we must understand how light emitted from the Earth's surface changes with time and viewing conditions. This study takes a step towards understanding the characteristics of light emitted by cities and its stability in time.
New satellite sensors are able to view visible light, such as that emitted by cities, at night. ...
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