High-accuracy Multiangle Spectropolarimetric Imaging Concept for Aerosol Remote Sensing from Space


Satellite remote sensing has a key role in measuring the distribution, radiative impact, and regional and global spatial context of tropospheric aerosols. A synergistic combination of multispectral, multiangle, and polarimetric approaches would improve the accuracies of aerosol optical depth and particle property characterizations compared to what is achievable using each method by itself. In this paper we discuss the science benefits and technical feasibility of combining key attributes of multiple aerosol remote sensing instruments into a single instrument package. The features of the conceptual instrument are: spectral coverage from the near-UV to the shortwave infrared; global coverage within a few days; intensity and polarimetric imaging simultaneously at multiple view angles; kilometer to sub-kilometer spatial resolution; and measurement of the degree of linear polarization in one visible and one shortwave-infrared spectral band, i.e., a subset of the full spectral complement, with an uncertainty of 0.5% or less. The polarimetric accuracy is the driving requirement of the instrument design, and is stipulated in order to achieve uncertainty goals in optical depth (0.01) and single scattering albedo (0.03) that appear difficult to reach given the current state-of-the-art of the calibration of intensity-only measurements. Bispectral polarimetry is invoked to enable size- resolved retrievals of particle real refractive index. After examining many approaches and technologies for imaging polarimetry, we conclude that ultrafast time-multiplexing is the best option for meeting the instrument performance requirements. The approach is based upon innovative advances in high-precision imaging polarimetry developed for ground-based solar astronomy. Rapid modulation of the linear polarization Stokes components Q and U, coupled with synchronous demodulation in a charge-caching focal plane, provides two essential benefits: (1) the same detector is used to measure the relative proportions of Q or U to the total intensity, thus circumventing inaccuracies introduced by detector gain changes or uncertainties in flight, and (2) rapid interlacing of the measurements at sub-pixel scale insulates against false polarization signals as the spacecraft flies over a spatially varying scene. Technology advances needed to implement this approach are identified.

AGU Spring Meeting Abstracts