Simulating the radiative impacts of aerosols located above liquid water clouds presents a significant challenge. In particular, absorbing aerosols, such as smoke, may have significant impact in such situations and even change the sign of net radiative forcing. It is not possible to reliably obtain information on such overlap events from existing passive satellite sensors. However, the CALIOP instrument onboard NASA's CALIPSO satellite allows us to examine these events with unprecedented accuracy. Using four years of collocated CALIPSO 5 km Aerosol and Cloud Layer Version 3 Products (June 2006 May 2010), we quantify, for the first time, the characteristics of overlapping aerosol and water cloud layers globally. We investigate seasonal variability in these characteristics over six latitude bands to understand the hemispheric differences when all aerosol types are included in the analysis (the AAO case). We also investigate frequency of smoke aerosol-cloud overlap (the SAO case). Globally, the frequency is highest during the JJA months in the AAO case, while for the SAO case, it is highest in the SON months. The seasonal mean overlap frequency can regionally exceed 20% in the AAO case and 10% in the SAO case. In about 5-10% cases the vertical distance between aerosol and cloud layers is less than 100 m, while about in 45-60% cases it less than a kilometer in the annual means for different latitudinal bands. In about 70-80% cases, aerosol layers are less than a kilometer thick, while in about 18-22% cases they are 1-2 km thick. The frequency of aerosol layers 2-3 km thick is about 4-5% in the tropical belts during overlap events. Over the regions where high aerosol loadings are present, the overlap frequency can be up to 50% higher when quality criteria on aerosol/cloud feature detection are relaxed. Over the polar regions, more than 50% of the overlapping aerosol layers have optical thickness less than 0.02, but the contribution from the relatively optically thicker aerosol layers increases towards the equatorial regions in both hemispheres. The results suggest that the frequency of occurrence of overlap events is far from being negligible globally.
2011. Vol. 11, no 3, 1143-1154 p.