Climate Data

CloudSat

CloudSat is a satellite mission designed to measure the vertical structure of clouds from space. The radar data produces detailed images of cloud structures.

CloudSat is one of a constellation of satellites known as the A-Train (Cloudsat, CALIPSO, PARASOL, Aqua, Aura, GCOM-W1). The satellites fly in a nearly circular orbit with an equatorial altitude of approximately 705 km. The orbit is sun-synchronous, maintaining a roughly fixed angle between the orbital plane and the mean solar meridian. CloudSat maintains a close formation with Aqua and a particularly close formation with CALIPSO, providing near-simultaneous and collocated observations with the instruments on these two platforms.

CloudSat data are available as Level-2 and as part of the Cloud Feedback Model Intercomparison Project (CFMIP) .

Key Limitations:

  • Monthly mean data are created only based on a limited number of samples since the ground track repeats every 16 days.

Expert Developer Guidance

Furthermore, the CloudSat radar only generates a curtain or two-dimensional cross section through the atmosphere as the satellite moves along its orbital trajectory. Therefore multi-year seasonal mean is recommended because it provides a better representation of cloud statistics. The multi-year seasonal mean can be easily calculated from the monthly data and the radar overpass numbers should be used to weight the mean calculations.

http://climserv.ipsl.polytechnique.fr/cfmip-obs/

Technical Notes

CloudSat and Calipso provide complimentary information and are, sometimes, combined.

The CloudSat radar only generates a curtain or two-dimensional cross section through the atmosphere as the satellite moves along its orbital trajectory. Therefore multi-year seasonal mean is recommended because it provides a better representation of cloud statistics.  The multi-year seasonal mean can be easily calculated from the monthly data.

After a battery anomaly on 17 April 2011, the CloudSat spacecraft ceased collecting data and lost formation with the A-Train. Daylight-only data collection resumed on 27 October 2011. CloudSat returned to the A-Train on 15 May 2012, and a maneuver to achieve footprint overlap with CALIPSO was performed on 18 July 2012.

Note that PARASOL was maneuvered to leave its position inside the A-Train on December 2, 2009.

Years of Record

2006/06 to 2010/11
temporal metadataID:

Formats

Timestep

Monthly

Data Time Period Extended?

yes, data set is extended

Domain

Spatial Resolution

2x2, 480m vertical resolution

Vertical Levels

Earth system components and main variables

Data Access: Please Cite data sources, following the data providers' instructions.

Key Figures

Click the thumbnails to view larger sizes

Thumbnails

Captions

Climate Data Guide Image: CloudSat Time mean total cloud fraction at various levels for June-Dec, 2006. (Climate Data Guide; D. Shea: see: http://www.ncl.ucar.edu/Applications/cloudsat.shtml)
Climate Data Guide Image: CloudSat Radar reflectivity at various locations for June, 2006. (Climate Data Guide; D. Shea: see http://www.ncl.ucar.edu/Applications/cloudsat.shtml)
Climate Data Guide Image: CloudSat Vertical cross sections at 150W (81S-81N), 8N (179W-179E) and a cross section spanning (20S,175W) to (38N,125W). (Climate Data Guide; D. Shea: see http://www.ncl.ucar.edu/Applications/cloudsat.shtml)

Cite this page

National Center for Atmospheric Research Staff (Eds). Last modified 07 Oct 2013. "The Climate Data Guide: CloudSat." Retrieved from https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/cloudsat.

Acknowledgement of any material taken from this page is appreciated. On behalf of experts who have contributed data, advice, and/or figures, please cite their work as well.