Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (Nov 2010)

Global evaluation of the Collection 5 MODIS dark-target aerosol products over land

  • R. C. Levy,
  • L. A. Remer,
  • R. G. Kleidman,
  • S. Mattoo,
  • C. Ichoku,
  • R. Kahn,
  • T. F. Eck

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 21
pp. 10399 – 10420


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NASA's MODIS sensors have been observing the Earth from polar orbit, from <i>Terra</i> since early 2000 and from <i>Aqua</i> since mid 2002. We have applied a consistent retrieval and processing algorithm to both sensors to derive the Collection 5 (C005) dark-target aerosol products over land. Here, we validate the MODIS along-orbit Level 2 products by comparing to quality assured Level 2 AERONET sunphotometer measurements at over 300 sites. From 85 463 collocations, representing mutually cloud-free conditions, we find that >66% (one standard deviation) of MODIS-retrieved aerosol optical depth (AOD) values compare to AERONET-observed values within an expected error (EE) envelope of ±(0.05 + 15%), with high correlation (R = 0.9). Thus, the MODIS AOD product is validated and quantitative. However, even though we can define EEs for MODIS-reported Ångström exponent and fine AOD over land, these products do not have similar physical validity. Although validated globally, MODIS-retrieved AOD does not fall within the EE envelope everywhere. We characterize some of the residual biases that are related to specific aerosol conditions, observation geometry, and/or surface properties, and relate them to situations where particular MODIS algorithm assumptions are violated. Both Terra's and Aqua's–retrieved AOD are similarly comparable to AERONET, however, Terra's global AOD bias changes with time, overestimating (by ~0.005) before 2004, and underestimating by similar magnitude after. This suggests how small calibration uncertainties of <2% can lead to spurious conclusions about long-term aerosol trends.