Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Atmospheric Sciences

First Advisor

Jianglong Zhang


Using two different operational Aqua Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) cloud optical depth (COD) retrievals (visible and shortwave infrared), the impacts of above-cloud absorbing aerosols on the standard COD retrievals are evaluated. For fine-mode aerosol particles, aerosol optical depth (AOD) values diminish sharply from the visible to the shortwave infrared channels. Thus, a suppressed above-cloud particle radiance aliasing effect occurs for COD retrievals using shortwave infrared channels. Aerosol Index (AI) from the spatially and temporally collocated Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) are used to identify above-cloud aerosol particle loading over the southern Atlantic Ocean, including both smoke and dust from the African sub-continent. MODIS and OMI Collocated Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) data are used to constrain cloud phase and provide contextual above-cloud AOD values. The frequency of occurrence of above-cloud aerosols is depicted on a global scale for the spring and summer seasons from OMI and CALIOP, thus indicating the significance of the problem. Seasonal frequencies for smoke-over-cloud off the southwestern Africa coastline reach 20-50% in boreal summer. We find a corresponding low COD bias of 10–20% for standard MODIS COD retrievals when averaged OMI AI are larger than 1.0. No such bias is found over the Saharan dust outflow region off northern Africa, since both MODIS visible and shortwave in channels are vulnerable to dust particle aliasing, and thus a COD impact cannot be isolated with this method. A similar result is found for a smaller domain, in the Gulf of Tonkin region, from smoke advection over marine stratocumulus clouds and outflow into the northern South China Sea in spring. This study shows the necessity of accounting for the above–cloud aerosol events for future studies using standard MODIS cloud products in biomass burning outflow regions, through the use of collocated OMI AI and supplementary MODIS shortwave infrared COD products.