A concept for a satellite mission to measure cloud ice water path, ice particle size, and cloud altitude


  • The contribution of T. R. Sreerekha of the Met Office, Exeter, was prepared as part of an official duty as an employee of the UK Government. It is published with the permission of the Controller of HER Majesty's Stationery Office and the Queen's Printer for Scotland


A passive satellite radiometer operating at submillimetre wavelengths can measure cloud ice water path (IWP), ice particle size, and cloud altitude. The paper first discusses the scientific background for such measurements. Formal scientific mission requirements are derived, based on this background and earlier assessments. The paper then presents a comprehensive prototype instrument and mission concept, and demonstrates that it meets the requirements. The instrument is a conically scanning 12-channel radiometer with channels between 183 and 664 GHz, proposed to fly in tandem with one of the Metop satellites. It can measure IWP with a relative accuracy of approximately 20% and a detection threshold of approximately 2 g m−2. The median mass equivalent sphere diameter of the ice particles can be measured with an accuracy of approximately 30 µm, and the median IWP cloud altitude can be measured with an accuracy of approximately 300 m. All the above accuracies are median absolute error values; root mean square error values are approximately twice as high, due to rare outliers. Copyright © 2007 Royal Meteorological Society