Joint statistics of photon path length and cloud optical depth: Case studies


  • Qilong Min,

  • Lee C. Harrison,

  • Eugene E. Clothiaux


We show the joint statistics of photon path length and cloud optical depth for cloudy sky cases observed at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Southern Great Plains (SGP) site between September and December 1997. The photon path lengths are retrieved from moderate resolution oxygen A-band observations taken by a rotating shadow band spectroradiometer (RSS). For high optical depth cloud cases, two different populations in the scattergram of the path length versus cloud optical depth are apparent. One population is a result of single-layer cloud cases that exhibit a small variation of path length enhancement over a large optical depth range, together with a strong correlation between the radiation field and the cloud liquid water path, while the second population is attributed to multiple-layer cloud cases with large variability of enhanced photon path lengths. When the optical depth is less than 5, the population of cases appears to bifurcate as the solar air mass increases, with the lower branch exhibiting pressure-weighted path lengths shorter than the direct beam path lengths at these larger solar zenith angles. Using information from a millimeter-wave cloud radar, together with lidar and balloon-borne sonde data to further analyze these cases demonstrates that this bifurcation is caused by the altitude of the scattering; thin clouds aloft produce the lower branch and low-level aerosols produce the upper branch.