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How well do satellite AOD observations represent the spatial and temporal variability of PM2.5 concentration for the United States?

TitleHow well do satellite AOD observations represent the spatial and temporal variability of PM2.5 concentration for the United States?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsLi J., Carlson B.E, Lacis A.A
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Date Published2015/02
Type of ArticleArticle
ISBN Number1352-2310
Accession NumberWOS:000349590300029
KeywordsAerosol optical depth; air-quality; compare spatiotemporal variability; component analysis; ground-level pm2.5; land; modis; particulate matter; PM2; Principal; retrievals; Satellite remote sensing; Spatial and temporal variability; spectral-analysis techniques; surface

Due to their extensive spatial coverage, satellite Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD) observations have been widely used to estimate and predict surface PM2.5 concentrations. While most previous studies have focused on establishing relationships between collocated, hourly or daily AOD and PM2.5 measurements, in this study, we instead focus on the comparison of the large-scale spatial and temporal variability between satellite AOD and PM2.5 using monthly mean measurements. A newly developed spectral analysis technique Combined Maximum Covariance Analysis (CMCA) is applied to Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR), Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) and Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) AOD datasets and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) PM2.5 data, in order to extract and compare the dominant modes of variability. Results indicate that AOD and PM2.5 agree well in terms of interannual variability. An overall decrease is found in both AOD and PM2.5 across the United States, with the strongest signal over the eastern US. With respect to seasonality, good agreement is found only for Eastern US, while for Central and Western US, AOD and PM2.5 seasonal cycles are largely different or even reversed. These results are verified using Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) AOD observations and differences between satellite and AERONET are also examined. MODIS and MISR appear to have the best agreement with AERONET. In order to explain the disagreement between AOD and PM2.5 seasonality, we further use Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) extinction profile data to investigate the effect of two possible contributing factors, namely aerosol vertical distribution and cloud-free sampling. We find that seasonal changes in aerosol vertical distribution, due to the seasonally varying mixing height, is the primary cause for the AOD and PM2.5 seasonal discrepancy, in particular, the low AOD but high PM2.5 observed during the winter season for Central and Western US. In addition, cloud-free sampling by passive sensors also induces some bias in AOD seasonality, especially for the Western US, where the largest seasonal change in cloud fraction is found. The seasonal agreement between low level (below 500 m AGL), all sky CALIOP AOD and PM2.5 is significantly better than column AOD from MODIS, MISR, SeaWiFS and OMI. In particular, the correlation between low level, all sky AOD and PM2.5 seasonal cycles increases to above 0.7 for Central and Western US, as opposed to near zero or negative correlation for column, clear sky AOD. This result highlights the importance of accounting for the seasonally varying aerosol profiles and cloud-free sampling bias when using column AOD measurements to infer surface PM2.5 concentrations. (C) 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-SA license (

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