Differences between satellite measurements and theoretical estimates of global cloud liquid water amounts
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThis dissertation investigated the estimation of global cloud water amounts. The study was prompted by the large discrepancy in published global mean values of cloud liquid water path. Microwave and optical satellite measurements of this quantity range from 25 g/m² to 80 g/m². Theoretical estimates are significantly larger with a current best guess value of 380 g/m². The major limitations of microwave measurements were found to be the inadequate separation of the cloud- and rainwater components, and the lack of retrievals over land. Optical observations were found to be constrained by the truncation of retrieved optical thickness due to saturation effects, the limited knowledge of drop effective radius as a function of optical thickness and rain rate, and plane-parallel retrieval errors due to 3D effects. An analysis of the potential uncertainties concluded that the current theoretical estimate of the global mean cloud liquid water path of 380 g/m² was reasonable with an uncertainty of ±80 g/m². Errors in the optical retrievals due to 3D effects were estimated using a multiangle data set. A microwave-optical comparison revealed that a drop effective radius significantly larger than the common assumption of 8-10 μm was required to remove the low bias of optical retrievals of cloud liquid water in precipitating systems. The low bias due to saturation effects was accounted for by sigmoidal extrapolation of the cumulative distribution of cloud optical thickness. Overall it was found that the optical measurement of the global mean cloud liquid water path could be increased to a maximum of 150 g/m² over the oceans. The failure to close the gap between satellite measurements and theoretical estimates can partly be attributed to, but cannot be completely explained by, the lack of the most intense continental clouds in the ocean-only data set used in this study. It is unlikely that optical measurements can be corrected to accurately retrieve the largest liquid water amounts. New techniques are required to handle the wettest precipitating clouds.
Degree ProgramGraduate College