Aerosol optical depth (AOD), a measure of how much light is attenuated by aerosol particles, provides scientists information about the amount and type of aerosols in the atmosphere. Recent developments in aerosol remote sensing was the theme of a workshop held in Germany. The workshop was sponsored by the Wilhelm and Else Heraeus Foundation and attracted 67 participants from 12 countries.
The workshop focused on the determination (retrieval) of AOD and its spectral dependence using measurements of changes to the solar radiation backscattered to space. The midvisible AOD is usually applied to define aerosol amount, while the size of aerosol particles is indicated by the AOD spectral dependence and is commonly expressed by the Angstrom parameter. Identical properties retrieved by different sensors, however, display significant diversity, especially over continents. A major reason for this is that the derivation of AOD requires more accurate determination of nonaerosol contributions to the sensed satellite signal than is usually available. In particular, surface reflectance data as a function of the viewing geometry and robust cloud-clearing methods are essential retrieval elements. In addition, the often needed assumptions about aerosol properties in terms of absorption and size are more reasons for the discrepancy between different AOD measurements.