Articles | Volume 27, issue 11
04 Nov 2009
 | 04 Nov 2009

Vertical distribution of aerosols over the east coast of India inferred from airborne LIDAR measurements

S. K. Satheesh, V. Vinoj, S. Suresh Babu, K. Krishna Moorthy, and Vijayakumar S. Nair

Abstract. The information on altitude distribution of aerosols in the atmosphere is essential in assessing the impact of aerosol warming on thermal structure and stability of the atmosphere. In addition, aerosol altitude distribution is needed to address complex problems such as the radiative interaction of aerosols in the presence of clouds. With this objective, an extensive, multi-institutional and multi-platform field experiment (ICARB-Integrated Campaign for Aerosols, gases and Radiation Budget) was carried out under the Geosphere Biosphere Programme of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO-GBP) over continental India and adjoining oceans during March to May 2006. Here, we present airborne LIDAR measurements carried out over the east Coast of the India during the ICARB field campaign. An increase in aerosol extinction (scattering + absorption) was observed from the surface upwards with a maximum around 2 to 4 km. Aerosol extinction at higher atmospheric layers (>2 km) was two to three times larger compared to that of the surface. A large fraction (75–85%) of aerosol column optical depth was contributed by aerosols located above 1 km. The aerosol layer heights (defined in this paper as the height at which the gradient in extinction coefficient changes sign) showed a gradual decrease with an increase in the offshore distance. A large fraction (60–75%) of aerosol was found located above clouds indicating enhanced aerosol absorption above clouds. Our study implies that a detailed statistical evaluation of the temporal frequency and spatial extent of elevated aerosol layers is necessary to assess their significance to the climate. This is feasible using data from space-borne lidars such as CALIPSO, which fly in formation with other satellites like MODIS AQUA and MISR, as part of the A-Train constellation.