Fusion of MISR Stereo Cloud Heights and Terra-MODIS Thermal Infrared Radiances to Estimate Two-Layered Cloud Properties

Arka Mitra, Jesse Ray Loveridge, Larry Di Girolamo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our longest, stable record of cloud-top pressure (CTP) and cloud-top height (CTH) are derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) and Multi-Angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) on Terra. Because of single cloud-layer assumptions in their standard algorithms, they provide only single CTP/CTH retrievals in multi-layered situations. In the predominant multi-layered regime of thin cirrus over low clouds, MODIS significantly overestimates cirrus CTP and emissivity, while MISR accurately retrieves low-cloud CTH. Utilizing these complementary capabilities, we develop a retrieval algorithm for accurately determining both-layer CTP and cirrus emissivity for such 2-layered clouds, by applying the MISR low-cloud CTH as a boundary condition to a modified MODIS CO2-slicing retrieval. We evaluate our 2-layered retrievals against collocated Cloud-Aerosol Transport System (CATS) lidar observations. Relative to CATS, the mean bias of the upper cloud CTP and emissivity are reduced by ∼90% and ∼75% respectively in the new technique, compared to standard MODIS products. We develop an error model for the 2-layered retrieval accounting for systematic and random errors. We find up to 87% of all residuals lie within modeled 95% confidence intervals, indicating a near-closure of error budget. This reduction in error leads to a reduction in modeled atmospheric longwave radiative flux biases ranging between 5 and 40 W m−2, depending on the position and optical properties of the layers. Given this large radiative impact, we recommend that the pixel-level 2-layered MODIS + MISR fusion algorithm be applied over the entire MISR swath for the 22-year Terra record, leading to a first-of-its-kind 2-layered cloud climatology from Terra's morning orbit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2022JD038135
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 27 2023


  • CO-slicing
  • MISR
  • Terra
  • fusion
  • multi-layered clouds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Fusion of MISR Stereo Cloud Heights and Terra-MODIS Thermal Infrared Radiances to Estimate Two-Layered Cloud Properties'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this