CALIOP and AERONET aerosol optical depth comparisons: One size fits none


Corresponding author: A. H. Omar, NASA Langley Research Center, Science Directorate, MailStop 475, Hampton, VA 23681, USA. E-mail: (


[1] We compare the aerosol optical depths (AOD) retrieved from backscatter measurements of the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) aboard the Cloud Aerosol Lidar Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite with coincident Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) measurements. Overpass coincidence criteria of ±2 h and within a 40 km radius are satisfied at least once at 149 globally distributed AERONET sites from 2006 to 2010. Most data pairs (>80%) use AERONET measurements acquired ±30 min of the overpass. We examine the differences in AOD estimates between CALIOP and AERONET for various aerosol, environmental, and geographic conditions. Results show CALIOP AOD are lower than AERONET AOD especially at low optical depths as measured by AERONET (500 nm AOD < 0.1). Furthermore, the median relative AOD difference between the two measurements is 25% of the AERONET AOD for AOD > 0.1. Differences in AOD between CALIOP and AERONET are possibly due to cloud contamination, scene inhomogeneity, instrument view angle differences, CALIOP retrieval errors, and detection limits. Comparison of daytime to nighttime number of 5 km × 60 m (60 m in the vertical) features detected by CALIOP show that there are 20% more aerosol features at night. We find that CALIPSO and AERONET do not agree on the cloudiness of scenes. Of the scenes that meet the above coincidence criteria, CALIPSO finds clouds in more than 45% of the coincident atmospheric columns AERONET classifies as clear.