Above-cloud aerosol radiative effects based on ORACLES 2016 and ORACLES 2017 aircraft experiments

Sabrina P. Cochrane*, K. Sebastian Schmidt, Hong Chen, Peter Pilewskie, Scott Kittelman, Jens Redemann, Samuel Leblanc, Kristina Pistone, Meloë Kacenelenbogen, Michal Segal Rozenhaimer, Yohei Shinozuka, Connor Flynn, Steven Platnick, Kerry Meyer, Rich Ferrare, Sharon Burton, Chris Hostetler, Steven Howell, Steffen Freitag, Amie DobrackiSarah Doherty

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Determining the direct aerosol radiative effect (DARE) of absorbing aerosols above clouds from satellite observations alone is a challenging task, in part because the radiative signal of the aerosol layer is not easily untangled from that of the clouds below. In this study, we use aircraft measurements from the NASA ObseRvations of CLouds above Aerosols and their intEractionS (ORACLES) project in the southeastern Atlantic to derive it with as few assumptions as possible. This is accomplished by using spectral irradiance measurements (Solar Spectral Flux Radiometer, SSFR) and aerosol optical depth (AOD) retrievals (Spectrometer for Sky-Scanning, Sun-Tracking Atmospheric Research, 4STAR) during vertical profiles (spirals) that minimize the albedo variability of the underlying cloud field - thus isolating aerosol radiative effects from those of the cloud field below. For two representative cases, we retrieve spectral aerosol single scattering albedo (SSA) and the asymmetry parameter (g) from these profile measurements and calculate DARE given the albedo range measured by SSFR on horizontal legs above clouds. For mid-visible wavelengths, we find SSA values from 0.80 to 0.85 and a significant spectral dependence of g. As the cloud albedo increases, the aerosol increasingly warms the column. The transition from a cooling to a warming top-of-aerosol radiative effect occurs at an albedo value (critical albedo) just above 0.2 in the mid-visible wavelength range. In a companion paper, we use the techniques introduced here to generalize our findings to all 2016 and 2017 measurements and parameterize aerosol radiative effects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6505-6528
Number of pages24
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number12
StatePublished - 9 Dec 2019


FundersFunder number
National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationNNX15AF62G


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