A comparison between CloudSat and aircraft data for a multilayer, mixed phase cloud system during the Canadian CloudSat-CALIPSO Validation Project

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Abstract

[1] Reflectivities recorded by the W-band Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR) aboard NASA's CloudSat satellite and some of CloudSat's retrieval products are compared to Ka-band radar reflectivities and in situ cloud properties gathered by instrumentation on the NRC's Convair-580 aircraft. On 20 February 2007, the Convair flew several transects along a 60 nautical mile stretch of CloudSat's afternoon ground track over southern Quebec. On one of the transects it was well within CloudSat's radar's footprint while in situ sampling a mixed phase boundary layer cloud. A cirrus cloud was also sampled before and after overpass. Air temperature and humidity profiles from ECMWF reanalyses, as employed in CloudSat's retrieval stream, agree very well with those measured by the Convair. The boundary layer cloud was clearly visible, to the eye and lidar, and dominated the region's solar radiation budget. It was, however, often below or near the Ka-band's distance-dependent minimum detectable signal. In situ samples at overpass revealed it to be composed primarily of small, supercooled droplets at the south end and increasingly intermixed with ice northward. Convair and CloudSat CPR reflectivities for the low cloud agree well, but while CloudSat properly ascribed it as overcast, mixed phase, and mostly liquid near the south end, its estimates of liquid water content LWC (and visible extinction coefficient κ) and droplet effective radii are too small and large, respectively. The cirrus consisted largely of irregular crystals with typical effective radii ∼150 μm. While both CPR reflectivities agree nicely, CloudSat's estimates of crystal number concentrations are too large by a factor of 5. Nevertheless, distributions of ice water content and κ deduced from in situ data agree quite well with values retrieved from CloudSat algorithms.

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