04 Aug 2023
 | 04 Aug 2023

An intercomparison of EarthCARE cloud, aerosol and precipitation retrieval products

Shannon L. Mason, Jason N. S. Cole, Nicole Docter, David P. Donovan, Robin J. Hogan, Anja Hünerbein, Pavlos Kollias, Bernat Puigdomènech Treserras, Zhipeng Qu, Ulla Wandinger, and Gerd-Jan van Zadelhoff

Abstract. The mission of the Earth cloud, aerosol and radiation explorer (EarthCARE) mission to observe cloud, aerosol, precipitation and radiation using four complementary instruments requires the development of many single-instrument and synergistic algorithms for the retrieval of geophysical quantities. The retrieval products employ one or more of the cloud profiling radar (CPR), atmospheric lidar (ATLID) and multispectral imager (MSI), while the broadband radiometer (BBR) places the retrieved quantities in the context of the atmospheric radiation budget. To facilitate the development and evaluation of the ESA EarthCARE production model prior to launch, sophisticated instrument simulators have been developed to produce realistic synthetic EarthCARE measurements from the output of cloud-resolving model simulations. While acknowledging that the physical and radiative representation of cloud, aerosol and precipitation in the test scenes are based on numerical models, the opportunity to perform a detailed evaluation wherein the model ``truth'' is known has provided rare insights into the performance of EarthCARE's instruments and retrieval algorithms. This level of omniscience will not be available for the evaluation of in-flight EarthCARE retrieval products, even during validation activities coordinated with ground-based and airborne measurements. In this study we intercompare EarthCARE retrieval products from within the ESA production model both statistically across all simulated EarthCARE granules, and using timeseries of data from an individual scene. The comparison between the retrieved quantities helps to illustrate the strengths and limitations of the single-instrument retrievals, and the degrees to which the synergistic retrieval and composite products can represent the entire atmosphere of clouds, aerosols and precipitation.

We show that radar-lidar synergy has the greatest impact in ice clouds; when compared with single-instrument radar and lidar retrievals, the synergistic ATLID-CPR-MSI cloud, aerosols, and precipitation (ACM-CAP) product accurately retrieves profiles of both ice water content and effective radius. While liquid cloud is difficult to detect directly from spaceborne remote sensors, especially in complex and layered scenes, the synergistic retrieval benefits from combined constraints from lidar backscatter, solar radiances and radar path-integrated attenuation, but still exhibits a high degree of random error. For precipitation retrievals, the CPR cloud and precipitation product (C-CLD) and ACM-CAP have similar performance when well-constrained by CPR measurements. The greatest differences are in coverage, with ACM-CAP reporting retrievals in the melting layer, and in heavy precipitation where the radar is dominated by multiple scattering and attenuation). Aerosol retrievals from ATLID compensate for a high degree of measurement noise in a number of ways, with the ATLID extinction, backscatter and depolarization (A-EBD) product and ACM-CAP demonstrating similar performance in the test scenes. The multispectral imager (MSI) cloud optical properties (M-COP) product performs very well in unambiguous cloud layers; similarly, the MSI aerosol optical thickness (M-AOT) product performs well where the possibility of contamination by cloud signal is very low. A summary of the performance of all retrieval products is provided, and may help to inform the selection of EarthCARE data products by future users.

Shannon L. Mason et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1682', Anonymous Referee #1, 12 Aug 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1682', Anonymous Referee #2, 18 Sep 2023

Shannon L. Mason et al.

Shannon L. Mason et al.


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Short summary
When the EarthCARE mission enters its operational phase a large number of retrieval data products will be available, many of which will overlap both in terms of the measurements they use and the geophysical quantities they report. In this pre-launch study we use simulated EarthCARE scenes to compare the coverage and performance of many data products from the ESA production model, with the intention of providing a compact guide to users.