1Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Clarendon Laboratory, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PU, UK
2Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, OX11 0QX, UK
3EUMETSAT, Eumetsat-Allee 1, 64295 Darmstadt, Germany
*now at: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, 20771, USA and Goddard Earth Science and Technology Center, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, 21228, USA
**now at: Earth Sciences Department, Barcelona Supercomputing Center, Jordi Girona 29, Barcelona 08034, Spain
***now at: National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Wellington, New Zealand
****now at: Credit Suisse, One Cabot Square, London E14 4QJ, UK
Abstract. The Along-Track Scanning Radiometers (ATSRs) provide a long time-series of measurements suitable for the retrieval of cloud properties. This work evaluates the freely-available Global Retrieval of ATSR Cloud Parameters and Evaluation (GRAPE) dataset (version 3) created from the ATSR-2 (1995–2003) and Advanced ATSR (AATSR; 2002 onwards) records. Users are recommended to consider only retrievals flagged as high-quality, where there is a good consistency between the measurements and the retrieved state (corresponding to about 60% of converged retrievals over sea, and more than 80% over land). Cloud properties are found to be generally free of any significant spurious trends relating to satellite zenith angle. Estimates of the random error on retrieved cloud properties are suggested to be generally appropriate for optically-thick clouds, and up to a factor of two too small for optically-thin cases. The correspondence between ATSR-2 and AATSR cloud properties is high, but a relative calibration difference between the sensors of order 5–10% at 660 nm and 870 nm limits the potential of the current version of the dataset for trend analysis. As ATSR-2 is thought to have the better absolute calibration, the discussion focusses on this portion of the record. Cloud-top heights from GRAPE compare well to ground-based data at four sites, particularly for shallow clouds. Clouds forming in boundary-layer inversions are typically around 1 km too high in GRAPE due to poorly-resolved inversions in the modelled temperature profiles used. Global cloud fields are compared to satellite products derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) measurements, and a climatology of liquid water content derived from satellite microwave radiometers. In all cases the main reasons for differences are linked to differing sensitivity to, and treatment of, multi-layer cloud systems. The correlation coefficient between GRAPE and the two MODIS products considered is generally high (greater than 0.7 for most cloud properties), except for liquid and ice cloud effective radius, which also show biases between the datasets. For liquid clouds, part of the difference is linked to choice of wavelengths used in the retrieval. Total cloud cover is slightly lower in GRAPE (0.64) than the CALIOP dataset (0.66). GRAPE underestimates liquid cloud water path relative to microwave radiometers by up to 100 g m−2 near the Equator and overestimates by around 50 g m−2 in the storm tracks. Finally, potential future improvements to the algorithm are outlined.