Arctic clouds and surface radiation – a critical comparison of satellite retrievals and the ERA-interim reanalysis
1Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
2Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center, Bergen, Norway
3Leipzig Institute for Meteorology, University of Leipzig, Germany
4Institute of Oceanography, University of Hamburg, Germany
Abstract. Clouds regulate Earth's radiation budget, both by reflecting part of the incoming sunlight leading to cooling and by absorbing and emitting infrared radiation which tends to have a warming effect. Globally averaged, at the top of the atmosphere the cloud radiative effect is to cool the climate, while at the Arctic surface, clouds are thought to be warming. Ground-based observations of central Arctic Ocean cloudiness are limited to sporadic field campaigns. Therefore many studies rely on satellite- or reanalysis data. Here we compare a passive instrument, the AVHRR-based retrieval from CM-SAF, with recently launched active instruments onboard CloudSat and CALIPSO and the widely used ERA-Interim reanalysis. We find that the three data sets differ significantly. In summer, the two satellite products agree having monthly means of 70–80 percent, but the reanalysis are approximately ten percent higher. In winter passive satellite instruments have serious difficulties, detecting only half the cloudiness of the reanalysis, active instruments being in between. The monthly mean long- and shortwave components of the surface cloud radiative effect obtained from the ERA-Interim reanalysis are about twice that calculated on the basis of CloudSat retrievals. We discuss these discrepancies in terms of instrument-, retrieval- and reanalysis characteristics.