Radar data can be processed to study clouds closer to the surface.

An algorithm has been devised to reduce ground clutter in the data products of the CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR), which is a nadir-looking radar instrument, in orbit around the Earth, that measures power backscattered by clouds as a function of distance from the instrument. Ground clutter contaminates the CPR data in the lowest 1 km of the atmospheric profile, heretofore making it impossible to use CPR data to satisfy the scientific interest in studying clouds and light rainfall at low altitude.

The algorithm is based partly on the fact that the CloudSat orbit is such that the geodetic altitude of the CPR varies continuously over a range of approximately 25 km. As the geodetic altitude changes, the radar timing parameters are changed at intervals defined by flight software in order to keep the troposphere inside a data-collection time window. However, within each interval, the surface of the Earth continuously “scans through” (that is, it moves across) a few range bins of the data time window. For each radar profile, only few samples [one for every range-bin increment (Δr = 240 m)] of the surface-clutter signature are available around the range bin in which the peak of surface return is observed, but samples in consecutive radar profiles are offset slightly (by amounts much less than Δr) with respect to each other according to the relative change in geodetic altitude. As a consequence, in a case in which the surface area under examination is homogenous (e.g., an ocean surface), a sequence of consecutive radar profiles of the surface in that area contains samples of the surface response with range resolution (Δρ) much finer than the range-bin increment (Δρ << Δr).

Once the high-resolution surface response has thus become available, the profile of surface clutter can be accurately estimated by use of a conventional maximum-correlation scheme: A translated and scaled version of the high-resolution surface response is fitted to the observed low-resolution profile. The translation and scaling factors that optimize the fit in a maximum-correlation sense represent (1) the true position of the surface relative to the sampled surface peak and (2) the magnitude of the surface backscatter.

The performance of this algorithm has been tested on CloudSat data acquired over an ocean surface. A preliminary analysis of the test data showed a surface-clutter-rejection ratio over flat surfaces of >10 dB and a reduction of the contaminated altitude over ocean from about 1 km to about 0.5 km (over the ocean). The algorithm has been embedded in CloudSat L1B processing as of Release 04 (July 2007), and the estimated flat surface clutter is removed in L2B-GEOPROF product from the observed profile of reflectivity (see CloudSat product documentation for details and performance at //www.cloudsat.cira.colostate.edu/dataSpecs.php?prodid=1 ).

This work was done by Simone Tanelli, Kyung Pak, Stephen Durden, and Eastwood Im of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

The software used in this innovation is available for commercial licensing. Please contact Karina Edmonds of the California Institute of Technology at (626) 395-2322. Refer to NPO-44873.

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