Assessing observed and modelled spatial distributions of ice water path using satellite data
Journal article, 2011
The climate models used in the IPCC AR4 show large differences in monthly mean ice water path (IWP). The most valuable source of information that can be used to potentially constrain the models is global satellite data. The satellite datasets also have large differences. The retrieved IWP depends on the technique used, as retrievals based on different techniques are sensitive to different parts of the cloud column. Building on the foundation of Waliser et al. (2009), this article provides a more comprehensive comparison between satellite datasets. IWP data from the CloudSat cloud profiling radar provide the most advanced dataset on clouds. For all its unmistakable value, CloudSat data are too short and too sparse to assess climatic distributions of IWP, hence the need to also use longer datasets. We evaluate satellite datasets from CloudSat, PATMOS-x, ISCCP, MODIS and MSPPS in terms of monthly mean IWP, in order to determine the differences and relate them to the sensitivity of the instrument used in the retrievals. This information is also used to evaluate the climate models, to the extent that is possible.
ISCCP and MSPPS were shown to have comparatively low IWP values. ISCCP shows particularly low values in the tropics, while MSPPS has particularly low values outside the tropics. MODIS and PATMOS-x were in closest agreement with CloudSat in terms of magnitude and spatial distribution, with MODIS being the better of the two. Additionally PATMOS-x and ISCCP, which have a temporal range long enough to capture the inter-annual variability of IWP, are used in conjunction with CloudSat IWP (after removing profiles that contain precipitation) to assess the IWP variability and mean of the climate models. In general there are large discrepancies between the individual climate models, and all of the models show problems in reproducing the observed spatial distribution of cloud-ice. Comparisons consistently showed that ECHAM-5 is probably the GCM from IPCC AR4 closest to satellite observations.