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Keywords:

  • satellite;
  • climate;
  • dust

[1] The recently released Collection 5 Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol products provide a consistent record of the Earth's aerosol system. Comparing with ground-based AERONET observations of aerosol optical depth (AOD) we find that Collection 5 MODIS aerosol products estimate AOD to within expected accuracy more than 60% of the time over ocean and more than 72% of the time over land. This is similar to previous results for ocean and better than the previous results for land. However, the new collection introduces a 0.015 offset between the Terra and Aqua global mean AOD over ocean, where none existed previously. Aqua conforms to previous values and expectations while Terra is higher than what had been expected. The cause of the offset is unknown, but changes to calibration are a possible explanation. Even though Terra's higher ocean AOD is unexpected and unexplained, we present climatological analyses of data from both sensors. We find that the multiannual global mean AOD at 550 nm over oceans is 0.13 for Aqua and 0.14 for Terra, and over land it is 0.19 in both Aqua and Terra. AOD in situations with 80% cloud fraction are twice the global mean values, although such situations occur only 2% of the time over ocean and less than 1% of the time over land. Aerosol particle size associated with these very cloudy situations does not show a drastic change over ocean, but does over land. Regionally, aerosol amounts vary from polluted areas such as east Asia and India, to the cleanest regions such as Australia and the northern continents. As AOD increases over maritime background conditions, fine mode aerosol dominates over dust over all oceans, except over the tropical Atlantic downwind of the Sahara and during some months over the Arabian Sea.