1University of Reading, Reading, UK
2NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
3Science Systems and Applications, Inc., Lanham, MD, USA
4University of Maryland – Baltimore County, Baltimore, MD, USA
5Sigma Space Corporation, Lanham, MD, USA
6Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
7Boston University, Boston, MA, USA
Abstract. The ground-based Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARM) and NASA Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) routinely monitor clouds using zenith radiances at visible and near-infrared wavelengths. Using the transmittance calculated from such measurements, we have developed a new retrieval method for cloud effective droplet size and conducted extensive tests for non-precipitating liquid water clouds. The underlying principle is to combine a liquid-water-absorbing wavelength (i.e., 1640 nm) with a non-water-absorbing wavelength for acquiring information on cloud droplet size and optical depth. For simulated stratocumulus clouds with liquid water path less than 300 g m−2 and horizontal resolution of 201 m, the retrieval method underestimates the mean effective radius by 0.8 μm, with a root-mean-squared error of 1.7 μm and a relative deviation of 13%. For actual observations with a liquid water path less than 450 g m−2 at the ARM Oklahoma site during 2007–2008, our 1.5-min-averaged retrievals are generally larger by around 1 μm than those from combined ground-based cloud radar and microwave radiometer at a 5-min temporal resolution. We also compared our retrievals to those from combined shortwave flux and microwave observations for relatively homogeneous clouds, showing that the bias between these two retrieval sets is negligible, but the error of 2.6 μm and the relative deviation of 22% are larger than those found in our simulation case. Finally, the transmittance-based cloud effective droplet radii agree to better than 11% with satellite observations and have a negative bias of 1 μm. Overall, the retrieval method provides reasonable cloud effective radius estimates, which can enhance the cloud products of both ARM and AERONET.