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Improved retrieval of cloud base heights from ceilometer using a non-standard instrument method

Wang, Yang, Zhao, Chuanfeng, Dong, Zipeng, Li, Zhanqing, Hu, Shuzhen, Chen, Tianmeng, Tao, Fa, Wang, Yuzhao
Atmospheric research 2018 v.202 pp. 148-155
aerosols, algorithms, field experimentation, lidar, China
Cloud-base height (CBH) is a basic cloud parameter but has not been measured accurately, especially under polluted conditions due to the interference of aerosol. Taking advantage of a comprehensive field experiment in northern China in which a variety of advanced cloud probing instruments were operated, different methods of detecting CBH are assessed. The Micro-Pulse Lidar (MPL) and the Vaisala ceilometer (CL51) provided two types of backscattered profiles. The latter has been employed widely as a standard means of measuring CBH using the manufacturer's operational algorithm to generate standard CBH products (CL51 MAN) whose quality is rigorously assessed here, in comparison with a research algorithm that we developed named value distribution equalization (VDE) algorithm. It was applied to both the profiles of lidar backscattering data from the two instruments. The VDE algorithm is found to produce more accurate estimates of CBH for both instruments and can cope with heavy aerosol loading conditions well. By contrast, CL51 MAN overestimates CBH by 400m and misses many low level clouds under such conditions. These findings are important given that CL51 has been adopted operationally by many meteorological stations in China.