Use of a Lidar Forward Model for Global Comparisons of Cloud Fraction between the ICESat Lidar and the ECMWF Model

Wilkinson, Jonathan M.; Hogan, Robin J.; Illingworth, Anthony J.; Benedetti, Angela
October 2008
Monthly Weather Review;Oct2008, Vol. 136 Issue 10, p3742
Academic Journal
The performance of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model in simulating clouds is evaluated using observations by the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System lidar on the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat). To account for lidar attenuation in the comparison, model variables are used to simulate the attenuated backscatter using a lidar forward model. This generates a new model cloud fraction that can then be fairly compared with the ICESat lidar. The lidar forward model and ICESat comparison is performed over 15 days (equivalent to 226 orbits of Earth, or roughly 9 million km) of data. The model is assessed by cloud fraction statistics, skill scores, and its ability to simulate lidar backscatter. The results show that the model generally simulates the occurrence and location of clouds well but overestimates the mean amount when present of the ice cloud by around 10%, particularly in the tropics. The skill of the model is slightly better over the land than over the sea. The model also has some problems representing the amount when present in tropical boundary layer cloud, particularly over land, where there is an underestimate by as much as 15%. Calculations of backscatter reveal that the ECMWF model predicts the lidar backscatter to within 5% on average, for a lidar ratio of 20 sr, apart from in thick ice clouds. Sensitivity tests show that realistic variations in extinction-to-backscatter ratio and effective radius affect the forward modeled mean cloud fraction by no more than 10%.


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