Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


Physics (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Kenneth J. Voss

Second Committee Member

Paquita Zuidema

Third Committee Member

Howard R. Gordon

Fourth Committee Member

Olga Korotkova


Clouds impact Earth's climate through cloud transmission and reflection properties. Clouds reflect approximately 15 percent of the incoming solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere. A key cloud radiative variable is cloud optical depth, which gives information about how much light is transmitted through a cloud. Historically, remote measurements of cloud optical depth have been limited to uniform overcast conditions and had low temporal and spatial resolution. We present a novel method to measure cloud optical depth for coastal regions from spectral zenith radiance measurements for optically thin clouds, which removes some of these limitations. Our measurement site is part of South Florida's Cloud-Aerosol-Rain Observatory (CAROb), located on Virginia Key, FL (6 km from Miami). This work is based on Marshak et al.'s [1] method for finding cloud optical depth from vegetative sites that provide a strong spectral contrast between red and near infrared surface albedo. However, given the unique nature of our site, which contains water, vegetation, beach, and urban surface types, we found no such spectral contrast at those wavelength pairs. We measured albedo, with hyperspectral resolution, for different surface types around our measurement site to estimate the effective spectral albedo for the area centered on the site with a 5km radius. From this analysis, we found the best possible albedo contrast (573.9 and 673.1 nm) for our site. We tested the derived cloud optical depth from zenith radiance at these two wavelengths against a concurrently running polarized micro pulse LIDAR (MPL) and found good agreement.


Cloud Optical Depth; Aerosol; Earth's Energy Budget; Lidar; Zenith Radiance; Climate