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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 21 Jan 2020

Submitted as: research article | 21 Jan 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

Mind-the-gap part I: Accurately locating warm marine boundary layer clouds and precipitation using spaceborne radars

Katia Lamer1,a, Pavlos Kollias2,3,4, Alessandro Battaglia5,6, and Simon Preval5 Katia Lamer et al.
  • 1City University of New York
  • 2Brookhaven National Laboratory
  • 3Stony Brook University
  • 4Cologne University
  • 5University of Leicester, Leicester, UK
  • 6UK National Centre for Earth Observation
  • acurrently at: Brookhaven National Laboratory

Abstract. Ground-based radar observations show that, in the eastern north Atlantic, 50 % of warm marine boundary layer (WMBL) hydrometeors occur below 1.2 km and have reflectivities < −17 dBZ, thus making their detection from space susceptible to the extent of surface clutter and radar sensitivity.

Surface clutter limits the CloudSat-Cloud Precipitation Radar (CPR)’s ability to observe true cloud base in ~ 52 % of the cloudy columns it detects and true virga base in ~ 80 %, meaning the CloudSat-CPR often provides an incomplete view of even the clouds it does detect. Using forward-simulations, we determine that a 250-m resolution radar would most accurately capture the boundaries of WMBL clouds and precipitation; That being said, because of sensitivity limitations, such a radar would suffer from cloud cover biases similar to those of the CloudSat-CPR.

Overpass observations and forward-simulations indicate that the CloudSat-CPR fails to detect 29–41 % of the cloudy columns detected by the ground-based sensors. Out of all configurations tested, the 7 dB more sensitive EarthCARE-CPR performs best (only missing 9.0 % of cloudy columns) indicating that improving radar sensitivity is more important than shortening surface clutter for observing cloud cover. However, because 50 % of WMBL systems are thinner than 400 m, they tend to be artificially stretched by long sensitive radar pulses; hence the EarthCARE-CPR overestimation of cloud top height and hydrometeor fraction.

Thus, it is recommended that the next generation of space-borne radars targeting WMBL science shall operate interlaced pulse modes including both a highly sensitive long-pulse and a less sensitive but clutter limiting short-pulse mode.

Katia Lamer et al.

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Katia Lamer et al.

Katia Lamer et al.


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Latest update: 17 Feb 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Low-level shallow liquid clouds, among other things, generally contribute to global cooling; As such, it is important that we understand their properties and how they may be impacted by climate change. Radars onboard satellites may provide a global view of these clouds. This study aims to assess the ability of two existing space-based radars, CloudSat and EarthCARE, in characterizing low-level shallow liquid clouds and proposed alternative radar configurations to overcome existing limitations.
Low-level shallow liquid clouds, among other things, generally contribute to global cooling; As...