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Retrieving Mean Temperature of Atmospheric Liquid Water Layers Using Microwave Radiometer Measurements

Abstract

A remote sensing method to retrieve the mean temperature of cloud liquid using ground-based microwave radiometer measurements is evaluated and tested by comparisons with direct cloud temperature information inferred from ceilometer cloud-base measurements and temperature profiles from radiosonde soundings. The method is based on the dependence of the ratio of cloud optical thicknesses at W-band (~90 GHz) and Ka-band (~30 GHz) frequencies on cloud liquid temperature. This ratio is obtained from total optical thicknesses inferred from radiometer measurements of brightness temperatures after accounting for the contributions from oxygen and water vapor. This accounting is done based on the radiometer-based retrievals of integrated water vapor amount and temperature and pressure measurements at the surface. The W–Ka-band ratio method is applied to the measurements from a three-channel (90, 31.4, and 23.8 GHz) microwave radiometer at the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Mobile Facility at Oliktok Point, Alaska. The analyzed events span conditions from warm stratus clouds with temperatures above freezing to mixed-phase clouds with supercooled liquid water layers. Intercomparisons of radiometer-based cloud liquid temperature retrievals with estimates from collocated ceilometer and radiosonde measurements indicated on average a standard deviation of about 3.5°C between the two retrieval types in a wide range of cloud temperatures, from warm liquid clouds to mixed-phase clouds with supercooled liquid and liquid water paths greater than 50 g m−2. The three-channel microwave radiometer–based method has a broad applicability, since it requires neither the use of active sensors to locate the boundaries of liquid cloud layers nor information on the vertical profile of temperature.

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