Probabilistic assessment of cloud fraction using Bayesian blending of independent datasets: Feasibility study of a new method

Shen, SSP, Velado M, Somerville RCJ, Kooperman GJ.  2013.  Probabilistic assessment of cloud fraction using Bayesian blending of independent datasets: Feasibility study of a new method. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.


0321 Cloud/radiation interaction, 0430 Computational methods and data processing, 0910 Data processing, 1910 Data assimilation, integration and fusion, 3311 Clouds and aerosols, active remote sensing of clouds, Bayesian posterior estimate, cloud fraction, probabilistic density function, Southern Great Plains, total sky image


We describe and evaluate a novel method to blend two observed cloud fraction (CF) datasets through Bayesian posterior estimation. The research reported here is a feasibility study designed to explore the method. In this proof-of-concept study, we illustrate the approach using specific observational datasets from the U. S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program's Southern Great Plains site in the central United States, but the method is quite general and is readily applicable to other datasets. The total sky image (TSI) camera observations are used to determine the prior distribution. A regression model and the active remote sensing of clouds (ARSCL) radar/lidar observations are used to determine the likelihood function. The posterior estimate is a probability density function (pdf) of the CF whose mean is taken to be the optimal blend of the two observations. The data at hourly, daily, 5-day, monthly, and annual time scales are considered. Some physical and probabilistic properties of the CFs are explored from radar/lidar, camera, and satellite observations and from simulations using the Community Atmosphere Model (CAM5). Our results imply that (a) the Beta distribution is a reasonable model for CF for both short- and long-time means, the 5-day data are skewed right, and the annual data are almost normally distributed, and (b) the Bayesian method developed successfully yields a pdf of CF, rather than a deterministic CF value, and it is feasible to blend the TSI and ARSCL data with a capability for bias correction.