1ORAU/ NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA
2NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, USA
3Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, Sonoma, CA, USA
4Joint Center for Earth Systems Technology (JCET)/Goddard Earth Science and Technology Center (GEST), University of Baltimore County, MA, USA
5NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, USA
6NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MA, USA
Abstract. The Cloud Aerosol LIdar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP), on board the CALIPSO platform, has measured profiles of total attenuated backscatter coefficient (level 1 products) since June 2006. CALIOP's level 2 products, such as the aerosol backscatter and extinction coefficient profiles, are retrieved using a complex succession of automated algorithms. The goal of this study is to help identify potential shortcomings in the CALIOP version 2 level 2 aerosol extinction product and to illustrate some of the motivation for the changes that will be introduced in the next version of CALIOP data (version 3, currently being processed). As a first step, we compared CALIOP version 2-derived AOD with the collocated MODerate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) AOD retrievals over the Continental United States. The best statistical agreement between those two quantities was found over the Eastern part of the United States with, nonetheless, a weak correlation (R ~0.4) and an apparent CALIOP version 2 underestimation (by ~66%) of MODIS AOD. To help quantify the potential factors contributing to the uncertainty of the CALIOP aerosol extinction retrieval, we then focused on a one-day, multi-instrument, multiplatform comparison study during the CALIPSO and Twilight Zone (CATZ) validation campaign on August 04, 2007. This case study illustrates the following potential reasons for a bias in the CALIOP AOD: (i) CALIOP's low signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) leading to the misclassification and/or lack of aerosol layer identification, especially close to the Earth's surface; (ii) the cloud contamination of CALIOP version 2 aerosol backscatter and extinction profiles; (iii) potentially erroneous assumptions of the backscatter-to-extinction ratio (Sa) used in CALIOP's extinction retrievals; and (iv) calibration coefficient biases in the CALIOP daytime attenuated backscatter coefficient profiles.