03 Apr 2023
 | 03 Apr 2023

Low-level Arctic clouds: A blind zone in our knowledge of the radiation budget

Hannes Jascha Griesche, Carola Barrientos-Velasco, Hartwig Deneke, Anja Hünerbein, Patric Seifert, and Andreas Macke

Abstract. Quantifying the role of clouds in the Earth radiation budget is essential for improving our understanding of the drivers and feedbacks of climate change. This holds in particular for the Arctic, the region currently undergoing the most rapid changes. This region, however, also poses significant challenges to remote-sensing retrievals of clouds and radiative fluxes, introducing large uncertainties in current climate data records. In particular, low-level stratiform clouds are common in the Arctic but are, due to their low altitude, challenging to observe and characterize with remote-sensing techniques. The availability of reliable ground-based observations as reference is thus of high importance. In the present study, radiative transfer simulations based on state-of-the-art ground-based remote sensing of clouds are contrasted to surface radiative flux measurements to assess their ability to constrain the cloud radiative effect. Cloud radar, lidar, and microwave radiometer observations from the PS106 cruise in the Arctic marginal sea ice zone in summer 2017 were used to derive cloud micro- and macrophysical properties by means of the instrument synergy approach of Cloudnet. Closure of surface radiative fluxes can only be achieved by a realistic representation of the low-level liquid-containing clouds in the radiative transfer simulations. The original, likely erroneous, representation of these low-level clouds in the radiative transfer simulations let to errors in the cloud radiative effect of 43 W m-2. The present study highlights the importance of jointly improving retrievals for low-level liquid-containing clouds which are frequently encountered in the high Arctic, together with observational capabilities both in terms of cloud remote sensing and radiative flux observations. Concrete suggestions for achieving these goals are provided.

Hannes Jascha Griesche 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-2023-358', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Apr 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-358', Anonymous Referee #2, 19 May 2023
  • CC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-358', Luca Lelli, 22 May 2023

Hannes Jascha Griesche et al.

Hannes Jascha Griesche et al.


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Short summary
The Arctic is strongly affected by climate change and the role of clouds therein is not yet completely understood. Measurements from the Arctic expedition PS106 were used to simulate radiative fluxes with and without clouds at very low altitudes (below 165 m), and their radiative effect was calculated to be 43 W m-2. The low heights of these clouds make them hard to observe. This study shows the importance of accurate measurements and simulations of clouds and provides suggestions for improvements.