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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 3 | Copyright
The Cryosphere, 12, 907-920, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 14 Mar 2018

Research article | 14 Mar 2018

Near-surface temperature inversion during summer at Summit, Greenland, and its relation to MODIS-derived surface temperatures

Alden C. Adolph1,2, Mary R. Albert1, and Dorothy K. Hall3,4 Alden C. Adolph et al.
  • 1Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA
  • 2Department of Physics, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN, USA
  • 3Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center/University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
  • 4Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA

Abstract. As rapid warming of the Arctic occurs, it is imperative that climate indicators such as temperature be monitored over large areas to understand and predict the effects of climate changes. Temperatures are traditionally tracked using in situ 2m air temperatures and can also be assessed using remote sensing techniques. Remote sensing is especially valuable over the Greenland Ice Sheet, where few ground-based air temperature measurements exist. Because of the presence of surface-based temperature inversions in ice-covered areas, differences between 2m air temperature and the temperature of the actual snow surface (referred to as skin temperature) can be significant and are particularly relevant when considering validation and application of remote sensing temperature data. We present results from a field campaign extending from 8 June to 18 July 2015, near Summit Station in Greenland, to study surface temperature using the following measurements: skin temperature measured by an infrared (IR) sensor, 2m air temperature measured by a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) meteorological station, and a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) surface temperature product. Our data indicate that 2m air temperature is often significantly higher than snow skin temperature measured in situ, and this finding may account for apparent biases in previous studies of MODIS products that used 2m air temperature for validation. This inversion is present during our study period when incoming solar radiation and wind speed are both low. As compared to our in situ IR skin temperature measurements, after additional cloud masking, the MOD/MYD11 Collection 6 surface temperature standard product has an RMSE of 1.0°C and a mean bias of −0.4°C, spanning a range of temperatures from −35 to −5°C (RMSE  =  1.6°C and mean bias  =  −0.7°C prior to cloud masking). For our study area and time series, MODIS surface temperature products agree with skin surface temperatures better than previous studies indicated, especially at temperatures below −20°C, where other studies found a significant cold bias. We show that the apparent cold bias present in other comparisons of 2m air temperature and MODIS surface temperature may be a result of the near-surface temperature inversion. Further investigation of how in situ IR skin temperatures compare to MODIS surface temperature at lower temperatures (below −35°C) is warranted to determine whether a cold bias exists for those temperatures.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
In our studies of surface temperature in Greenland, we found that there can be differences between the temperature of the snow surface and the air directly above, depending on wind speed and incoming solar radiation. We also found that temperature measurements of the snow surface from remote sensing instruments may be more accurate than previously thought. Our results are relevant to studies of climate change in the remote sensing community and in studies of the atmospheric boundary layer.
In our studies of surface temperature in Greenland, we found that there can be differences...