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Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Clouds Observed by MODIS Onboard the Terra and Aqua SatellitesThe Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) was developed by NASA and launched aboard the Terra spacecraft on December 18, 1999 and Aqua spacecraft on May 4, 2002. A comprehensive set of remote sensing algorithms for the retrieval of cloud physical and optical properties have enabled over twelve years of continuous observations of cloud properties from Terra and over nine years from Aqua. The archived products from these algorithms include 1 km pixel-level (Level-2) and global gridded Level-3 products. In addition to an extensive cloud mask, products include cloud-top properties (temperature, pressure, effective emissivity), cloud thermodynamic phase, cloud optical and microphysical parameters (optical thickness, effective particle radius, water path), as well as derived statistics. Results include the latitudinal distribution of cloud optical and radiative properties for both liquid water and ice clouds, as well as latitudinal distributions of cloud top pressure and cloud top temperature. MODIS finds the cloud fraction, as derived by the cloud mask, is nearly identical during the day and night, with only modest diurnal variation. Globally, the cloud fraction derived by the MODIS cloud mask is approx.67%, with somewhat more clouds over land during the afternoon and less clouds over ocean in the afternoon, with very little difference in global cloud cover between Terra and Aqua. Overall, cloud fraction over land is approx.55%, with a distinctive seasonal cycle, whereas the ocean cloudiness is much higher, around 72%, with much reduced seasonal variation. Cloud top pressure and temperature have distinct spatial and temporal patterns, and clearly reflect our understanding of the global cloud distribution. High clouds are especially prevalent over the northern hemisphere continents between 30 and 50 . Aqua and Terra have comparable zonal cloud top pressures, with Aqua having somewhat higher clouds (cloud top pressures lower by 100 hPa) over land due to afternoon deep convection. The coldest cloud tops (colder than 230 K) generally occur over Antarctica and the high clouds in the tropics (ITCZ and the deep convective clouds over the western tropical Pacific and Indian sub-continent).
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Goddard Space Flight Center
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
King, Michael D.
(Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO, United States)
Platnick, Steven
(NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Menzel, W. Paul
(Wisconsin Univ. Madison, WI, United States)
Ackerman, Steven A.
(Wisconsin Univ. Madison, WI, United States)
Hubanks, Paul A.
(Science Systems and Applications, Inc. Seabrook, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
August 26, 2013
Publication Date
April 30, 2012
Subject Category
Meteorology And Climatology
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.
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