Australia cloud climatology project | Curtin’s Remote Sensing & Satellite Research Group

Australia cloud climatology project

Funded by: Federal Government, now also WASTAC small grants

Researchers:  Merv Lynch, Brett Nener  (UWA), Helen Chedzey

Period: 2018-2021

When studying the environment, the ability to observe large areas of the globe can be restricted by the location of ground-based instruments or be complicated by the expense when considering airborne experiments that will only cover a small area. Being able to record measurements regularly across the globe can be achieved with the use of satellite technology and is commonly referred to as satellite remote sensing.

Atmospheric remote sensing is involved in looking at all aspects of the atmosphere such as aerosols, water vapour and clouds. Cloud research and the monitoring of cloud physical and microphysical properties can be used for in-depth short-term analysis of weather systems as well as long-term climate studies.

The use of satellite technology in the study of meteorology has grown from humble beginnings in the 1960s to the most recent advanced multispectral imagers. As methods have improved, more detailed information of our climate has been made available for study. Where initially there were only photographs of cloud systems, now there are widespread radiometric measurements that are used to derive an extensive list of cloud physical and microphysical products.

Studying these cloud physical and microphysical properties allows in-depth analysis of temporal events, and if examined over a sufficiently long period of time, allows us to measure an important component of our climate and any amount of change that may have occurred.

As many satellites now exceed their lifespan specifications and there is established launching of successive platforms containing similar instruments, the opportunity for long-term cloud studies is rapidly expanding.


Research conducted using data sets from the following instruments:

High-resolution Infrared Radiation Sounder (HIRS) – 17 years of data

MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) – 20+ years of data

Advanced Very High-Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) – 40 years of data, 0.1 degree resolution

Sample of physical and microphysical cloud data products studied:

Cloud Fractional Amount

Cloud Emissivity

Cloud Optical Depth

Cloud Top Pressure

Cloud Top Temperature

Cloud Effective Radius

Examples of regional and national cloud analysis (completed, underway and planned):

Seasonal, Annual and Decadal summaries of cloud products

Cloud product investigations of years with above and below average rainfall

Use of cloud physical and microphysical products to enhance the characterisation of potential rainfall clouds

Summaries of clear sky observations to benefit laser communications

Comparison of numerical model predicted cloud cover and climatology data sets

Collaborating research with the following institutions:

University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin, USA

University of Western Australia, Perth, WA, Australia

Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia

Example results:

AVHRR decade diff
AVHRR wet dry

Remote Sensing and Satellite Research Group, Curtin University, Bentley, WA 6102
[Designed with Karelia SandVox® and the Apex design from blueball design ®] © RSSRG 2017-2021 Site map here