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1 June 2005 Atmospheric soundings from AIRS/AMSU in partial cloud cover
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Simultaneous use of AIRS/AMSU-A observations allow for the determination of accurate atmospheric soundings under partial cloud cover conditions. The methodology involves the determination of the radiances AIRS would have seen if the AIRS fields of view were clear, called clear column radiances, and use of these radiances to infer the atmospheric and surface conditions giving rise to these clear column radiances. Susskind et al. demonstrate via simulation that accurate temperature soundings and clear column radiances can be derived from AIRS/AMSU-A observations in cases of up to 80% partial cloud cover, with only a small degradation in accuracy compared to that obtained in clear scenes. Susskind and Atlas show that these findings hold for real AIRS/AMSU-A soundings as well. For data assimilation purposes, this small degradation in accuracy is more than offset by a significant increase in spatial coverage (roughly 50% of global cases were accepted, compared to 3.6% of the global cases being diagnosed as clear), and assimilation of AIRS temperature soundings in partially cloudy conditions resulted in a larger improvement in forecast skill than when AIRS soundings were assimilated only under clear conditions. Alternatively, derived AIRS clear column radiances under partial cloud cover could also be used for data assimilation purposes. Further improvements in AIRS sounding methodology have been made since the results shown in Susskind and Atlas. A new version of the AIRS/AMSU-A retrieval algorithm, Version 4.0, was delivered to the Goddard DAAC in February 2005 for production of AIRS derived products, including clear column radiances. The major improvement in the Version 4.0 retrieval algorithm is with regard to a more flexible, parameter dependent, quality control. Results are shown of the accuracy and spatial distribution of temperature-moisture profiles and clear column radiances derived from AIRS/AMSU-A as a function of fractional cloud cover using the Version 4.0 algorithm. Use of the Version 4.0 AIRS temperature profiles increased the positive forecast impact arising from AIRS retrievals relative to what was shown in Susskind and Atlas.
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Joel Susskind and Robert Atlas "Atmospheric soundings from AIRS/AMSU in partial cloud cover", Proc. SPIE 5806, Algorithms and Technologies for Multispectral, Hyperspectral, and Ultraspectral Imagery XI, (1 June 2005);

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