Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Upper tropospheric humidity and cirrus geometrical and optical thickness: Relationships inferred from 1 year of collocated AIRS and CALIPSO data



[1] Profiles of relative humidity with respect to ice (RHice) determined from spaceborne passive remote sensing suffer a lack of vertical and spatial resolutions. RHice distributions show dry biases compared to in situ observations because geometrically thin moist layers are integrated within coarser vertical resolutions, a direct effect being the underestimation of ice supersaturation (RHice > 100%) occurrence. Collocated data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) and the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation (CALIPSO) provide the opportunity to investigate relationships between RHice and geometrical thickness and optical depth of high clouds near the tropopause. “Apparent” optical depths are derived for single-layer high clouds from CALIPSO. By comparing these “apparent” optical depths to cloud infrared emissivities derived from AIRS the multiple scattering contribution is estimated and the optical depths are corrected. Mean RHice increases with cloud geometrical thickness but remains low compared to 100% except for very vertically extended clouds. Optically thicker clouds show on average larger geometrical thickness and larger relative humidity than optically thinner clouds. However, for a comparable geometrical thickness, optically thinner clouds are on average slightly more humid. This study concludes that cloud geometrical thickness has a greater influence than cloud optical depth on RHice integrated within a coarse vertical resolution. Limitations of AIRS humidity observations regarding the detection of ice supersaturation are discussed.