National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2002

Aerosol optical depths and direct radiative forcing for INDOEX derived from AVHRR: Theory

Coakley, J.A., W.R. Tahnk, A. Jayaraman, P.K. Quinn, C. Devaux, and D. Tanre

J. Geophys. Res., 107(D19), doi: 10.1029/2000JD000182 (2002)

A scheme is presented for retrieving aerosol properties for ocean regions from reflected sunlight at both the visible and near infrared wavelengths measured by the NOAA advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR). For the Indian Ocean Experiment (INDOEX), aerosols were presumed to be a mixture of a continental haze that had small particles, contained soot, and absorbed sunlight, and a marine haze that had large particles and absorbed practically no sunlight. Because of the difference in particle sizes, the two aerosols reflect sunlight differently at visible and near infrared wavelengths. Reflectances at visible and near infrared wavelengths were thus used to determine mixing fractions for the continental and marine aerosols and the optical depth of the aerosol mixture. The fractions and optical depths along with the optical properties of the aerosols were then used in radiative transfer calculations to estimate the diurnally averaged top of the atmosphere and surface aerosol direct radiative forcing for ocean regions. Comparison of retrieved optical depths at visible and near infrared wavelengths with surface measurements revealed that several different retrieval schemes employing a variety of aerosol types provided comparable levels of agreement, but none of the aerosol models or retrieval schemes produced ratios of the near infrared to visible optical depths that agreed with the ratios obtained with the surface measurements. In estimating the top of the atmosphere radiative forcing, errors in the retrieved optical depths were in some cases found to be partially compensated by the effect of the aerosol on the radiative flux. For example, different aerosol models led to retrieved optical depths that differed by as much as 60%, but the top of the atmosphere forcing obtained with the models differed by less than 35% for cloud-free conditions. When aerosols absorb sunlight, there is no comparable compensation for the surface forcing. Cloud conditions contribute sizable uncertainties to estimates of the aerosol direct radiative forcing. For INDOEX, estimates of the aerosol direct radiative forcing for average cloud conditions were obtained by (1) setting the forcing to zero for all 1° × 1° latitude-longitude boxes that contained any amount of upper-level cloud; (2) ascribing to regions with upper-level clouds the radiative forcing obtained for regions having only lowlevel clouds and, (3) setting the forcing to zero for all regions containing upper-level clouds and all portions of regions overcast by low-level clouds. Relative differences in the extreme values for the top of the atmosphere aerosol direct radiative forcing were less than 50%, but for the surface, the relative differences of the extreme values reached 70%.

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