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Changes in cloud and aerosol cover (1980–2006) from reflectivity time series using SeaWiFS, N7-TOMS, EP-TOMS, SBUV-2, and OMI radiance data

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Abstract

[1] The amount of solar radiation reflected back to space or reaching the Earth's surface is primarily governed by the amount of cloud cover and, to a much lesser extent, by Rayleigh scattering, aerosols, and various absorbing gases (e.g., O3, NO2, H2O). A useful measure of the effect of cloud plus aerosol cover is given by the amount that the 331 nm Lambert Equivalent Reflectivity (LER) of a scene exceeds the surface reflectivity for snow/ice-free scenes after Rayleigh scattering has been removed. Twenty-eight years of reflectivity data are available by overlapping data from several satellites: N7 (Nimbus 7, TOMS; 331 nm) from 1979 to 1992, SBUV-2 series (Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet, NOAA; 331 nm) 1985 to 2007, EP (Earth-Probe, TOMS; 331 nm) 1997 to 2006, SW (SeaWiFS; 412 nm) 1998 to 2006, and OMI (Ozone Measuring Instrument; 331 nm) 2004–2007. Only N7 and SW have a sufficiently long data record, Sun-synchronous orbits, and are adequately calibrated for long-term reflectivity trend estimation. Reflectivity data derived from these instruments and the SBUV-2 series are compared during the overlapping years. Key issues in determining long-term reflectivity changes that have occurred during the N7 and SW operating periods are discussed. The largest reflectivity changes in the 412 nm SW LER and 331 nm EP LER are found to occur near the equator and are associated with a large El Nino-Southern Oscillation event. Most other changes that have occurred are regional, such as the apparent cloud decrease over northern Europe since 1998. The fractional occurrence (fraction of days) of high reflectivity values over Hudson Bay, Canada (snow/ice and clouds) appears to have decreased when comparing reflectivity data from 1980 to 1992 to 1997–2006, suggesting shorter duration of ice in Hudson Bay since 1980.

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