An infrared desert dust index for the Along-Track Scanning Radiometers

Elizabeth Good, Xin Kong, Owen Embury , Chris Merchant, John Remedio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


A new aerosol index for the Along-Track Scanning Radiometers (ATSRs) is presented that provides a means to detect desert dust contamination in infrared SST retrievals. The ATSR Saharan dust index (ASDI) utilises only the thermal infrared channels and may therefore be applied consistently to the entire ATSR data record (1991 to present), for both day time and night time observations. The derivation of the ASDI is based on a principal component (PC) analysis (PCA) of two unique pairs of channel brightness temperature differences (BTDs). In 2-D space (i.e. BTD vs BTD), it is found that the loci of data unaffected by aerosol are confined to a single axis of variability. In contrast, the loci of aerosol-contaminated data fall off-axis, shifting in a direction that is approximately orthogonal to the clear-sky axis. The ASDI is therefore defined to be the second PC, where the first PC accounts for the clear-sky variability. The primary ASDI utilises the ATSR nadir and forward-view observations at 11 and 12 μm (ASDI2). A secondary, three-channel nadir-only ASDI (ASDI3) is also defined for situations where data from the forward view are not available. Empirical and theoretical analyses suggest that ASDI is well correlated with aerosol optical depth (AOD: correlation r is typically > 0.7) and provides an effective tool for detecting desert mineral dust. Overall, ASDI2 is found to be more effective than ASDI3, with the latter being sensitive only to very high dust loading. In addition, use of ASDI3 is confined to night time observations as it relies on data from the 3.7 μm channel, which is sensitive to reflected solar radiation. This highlights the benefits of having data from both a nadir- and a forward-view for this particular approach to aerosol detection
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159-176
JournalRemote Sensing of Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Along-Track Scanning Radiometer; Thermal remote sensing
  • Saharan dust
  • Tropospheric aerosol
  • Sea surface temperature


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