Estimating the altitude of aerosol plumes over the ocean from reflectance ratio measurements in the O2 A-band

Philippe Dubuisson, Robert Frouin, David Dessailly, Lucile Duforêt, Jean François Léon, Kenneth Voss, David Antoine

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51 Scopus citations


A methodology is proposed to infer the altitude of aerosol plumes over the ocean from reflectance ratio measurements in the O2 absorption A-band (759 to 770 nm). The reflectance ratio is defined as the ratio of the reflectance in a first spectral band, strongly attenuated by O2 absorption, and the reflectance in a second spectral band, minimally attenuated. For a given surface reflectance, simple relations are established between the reflectance ratio and the altitude of an aerosol layer, as a function of atmospheric conditions and the geometry of observation. The expected accuracy for various aerosol loadings and models is first quantified using an accurate, high spectral resolution, radiative transfer model that fully accounts for interactions between scattering and absorption. The method is developed for POLDER and MERIS, satellite sensors with adequate spectral characteristics. The simulations show that the method is only accurate over dark surfaces when aerosol optical thickness at 765 nm is relatively large (> 0.3). In this case, the expected accuracy is on the order of ± 0.5 km or ± 0.2 km for POLDER or MERIS respectively. More accurate estimates are obtained with MERIS, since in this case the spectral reflectance ratio is more sensitive to aerosol altitude. However, a precise spectral calibration is needed for MERIS. The methodology is applied to MERIS and POLDER imagery acquired over marine surfaces. The estimated aerosol altitude is compared with in situ lidar profiles of backscattering coefficient measured during the AOPEX-2004 experiment for MERIS, or obtained with the space-borne lidar CALIOP for POLDER. The retrieved altitudes agree with lidar measurements in a manner consistent with theory. These comparisons demonstrate the potential of the differential absorption methodology for obtaining information on aerosol altitude over dark surfaces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1899-1911
Number of pages13
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Absorption
  • Aerosols
  • Oxygen A-band
  • Scattering
  • Vertical distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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