Evaluation of ISCCP cloud amount with MODIS observations

The goal of the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) is to provide global cloud amount statistics for atmospheric radiation flux modeling, which is a key element of climate change studies. However, ISCCP estimates rely on two spectral channels only, while the most advanced satellite sensors offer over 20 spectral bands, and thus a higher probability of correct cloud detection. We validated the accuracy of ISCCP mean monthly cloud amount statistics using the state-of-the-art, 36-spectral channel Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard the Terra and Aqua satellites. Based on the MODIS Level 2 Cloud Mask we developed a dedicated Level 3 product for Central Europe (2004–2009). For the first time, MODIS swath data were projected onto an ISCCP equal-area grid, which guaranteed an exact geometrical agreement between both climatologies. Results showed that there was a close correlation between ISCCP and MODIS data (ρ = 0.872, α = 0.99), especially at warmer part of the year (ρ ≥ 0.940, α > 0.99). However, ISCCP estimations were found to be unreliable in wintertime when surface was covered with snow. The presence of snow resulted in a significant underestimate of cloud amount by 0.45 for individual ISCCP grid boxes. Our results suggest that MODIS cloud climatology is more reliable when estimates of mean monthly cloud amount are required.

Kotarba A.Z., 2015. Evaluation of ISCCP cloud amount with MODIS observations. Atmospheric Research, vol. 153, 310-317, doi:10.1016/j.atmosres.2014.09.006.