Environmental & Climate Sciences Department Seminar

"Cloud radiative fraction: Determination by high resolution photography from the surface looking upward"

Presented by Stephen E. Schwartz, Environmental & Climate Sciences Department

Thursday, June 1, 2017, 11:00 am — Conference Room Bldg 815E

Clouds greatly affect short- and longwave radiation transfer in the atmosphere and consequently climate. Hence it is essential that the amount and radiative influences of clouds be accurately represented in climate models. The conventional measure of the amount of cloud in a grid cell is cloud fraction, CF, the fraction of the surface area covered by cloud. CF is a commonly reported meteorological quantity, with a long record of surface observations, greatly augmented in the past several decades by satellite observations. Global cloud fraction determined from satellite measurements has systematically increased with time, a consequence not of secular increase in cloud fraction but of an increase with time in the sensitivity of active and passive satellite instruments. Such a situation raises the question of whether CF can be defined and how well it can be measured.

Commercially available digital cameras provide an unprecedented opportunity for detailed study of cloud structure from the surface, looking upward. Key attributes of such cameras include large number of pixels, (e.g., 3456 x 4608; 16 M pixel) yielding rich detail of spatial structure, high spatial resolution, and high dynamic range (16 bit in each of three color channels at visible wavelengths). In the work reported here two cameras were pointed vertically, typically with field of view FOV 21 × 29 mrad and 120 × 160 mrad, respectively, denoted here narrow field of view, NFOV, and wide field of view WFOV, corresponding, for cloud base at 1 km, to 21 × 29 m (NFOV) and 120 × 160 m (WFOV). For perspective, the FOV for the NFOV camera is 2 × 3 sun diameters and for the WFOV camera 11 × 15 sun diameters. Nominal angular dimension of a single pixel is 6 μrad for the NFOV camera and 34 μrad for the WFOV camera, corresponding, again for cloud height 1 km, to 6 mm and 34 mm, respectively. Such single-pixel resolution is some 3 to 5 orders of magnitude finer than that avai

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