Airborne validation of radiative transfer modelling of ice clouds at millimetre and sub-millimetre wavelengths

Stuart Fox, Jana Mendrok, Patrick Eriksson, Robin Ekelund, Sebastian J. O'Shea, Keith N. Bower, Anthony J. Baran, R. Chawn Harlow, Juliet C. Pickering

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The next generation of European polar orbiting weather satellites will carry a novel instrument, the Ice Cloud Imager (ICI), which uses passive observations between 183 and 664 GHz to make daily global observations of cloud ice. Successful use of these observations requires accurate modelling of cloud ice scattering, and this study uses airborne observations from two flights of the Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements (FAAM) BAe 146 research aircraft to validate radiative transfer simulations of cirrus clouds at frequencies between 325 and 664 GHz using the Atmospheric Radiative Transfer Simulator (ARTS) and a state-of-the-art database of cloud ice optical properties. Particular care is taken to ensure that the inputs to the radiative transfer model are representative of the true atmospheric state by combining both remote-sensing and in situ observations of the same clouds to create realistic vertical profiles of cloud properties that are consistent with both observed particle size distributions and bulk ice mass. The simulations are compared to measurements from the International Submillimetre Airborne Radiometer (ISMAR), which is an airborne demonstrator for ICI. It is shown that whilst they are generally able to reproduce the observed cloud signals, for a given ice water path (IWP) there is considerable sensitivity to the cloud microphysics, including the distribution of ice mass within the cloud and the ice particle habit. Accurate retrievals from ICI will therefore require realistic representations of cloud microphysical properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1599-1617
Number of pages19
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2019


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