Cloud tolerance of remote-sensing technologies to measure land surface temperature
Abstract. Conventional methods to estimate land surface temperature (LST) from space rely on the thermal infrared (TIR) spectral window and is limited to cloud-free scenes. To also provide LST estimates during periods with clouds, a new method was developed to estimate LST based on passive-microwave (MW) observations. The MW-LST product is informed by six polar-orbiting satellites to create a global record with up to eight observations per day for each 0.25° resolution grid box. For days with sufficient observations, a continuous diurnal temperature cycle (DTC) was fitted. The main characteristics of the DTC were scaled to match those of a geostationary TIR-LST product.
This paper tests the cloud tolerance of the MW-LST product. In particular, we demonstrate its stable performance with respect to flux tower observation sites (four in Europe and nine in the United States), over a range of cloudiness conditions up to heavily overcast skies. The results show that TIR-based LST has slightly better performance than MW-LST for clear-sky observations but suffers an increasing negative bias as cloud cover increases. This negative bias is caused by incomplete masking of cloud-covered areas within the TIR scene that affects many applications of TIR-LST. In contrast, for MW-LST we find no direct impact of clouds on its accuracy and bias. MW-LST can therefore be used to improve TIR cloud screening. Moreover, the ability to provide LST estimates for cloud-covered surfaces can help expand current clear-sky-only satellite retrieval products to all-weather applications.