1NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York, USA
2NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York, New York, USA
3Bay Area Environmental Research Institute, Sonoma, CA, USA
4NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, USA
5Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway
Abstract. Estimation of Direct Climate Forcing (DCF) due to aerosols in cloudy areas has historically been a difficult task, mainly because of a lack of appropriate measurements. The Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS), on the upcoming NASA Glory mission, has the potential to retrieve both cloud and aerosol properties because of its polarimetric, multiple view angle, and multi spectral observations. The APS airborne prototype is the Research Scanning Polarimeter (RSP), which has similar characteristics and can be used to demonstrate APS capabilities. In the spring of 2006, the RSP was deployed on an aircraft based in Veracruz, Mexico, as part of the Megacity Initiative: Local and Global Research Observations (MILAGRO) field campaign. On March 13th, the RSP over flew an aerosol layer lofted above a low altitude marine stratocumulus cloud close to shore in the Gulf of Mexico. We investigate the feasibility of retrieving aerosol properties over clouds using these data. Our approach is to first determine cloud droplet size distribution using the angular location of the cloud bow and other features in the polarized reflectance. The selected cloud was then used in a multiple scattering radiative transfer model optimization to determine the aerosol optical properties and fine tune the cloud size distribution. In this scene, we were able to retrieve aerosol optical depth, the fine mode aerosol size distribution and the cloud droplet size distribution to a degree of accuracy required for climate modeling. This required assumptions about the aerosol vertical distribution and the optical properties of the coarse aerosol size mode. A sensitivity study was also performed to place this case study in the context of the potential for future systematic APS observations of this kind, which found that the aerosol complex refractive index can also be observed accurately if the aerosol optical depth is larger than roughly 0.8 at a wavelength of 0.555 μm.