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A dynamic global cloud layer for virtual globes

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We describe a technique to merge multiple environmental satellite data sets for an hourly updated, near real-time global depiction of cloud cover for virtual globe applications. A global thermal infrared composite obtained from merged geostationary- (GEO) and low-Earth-orbiting (LEO) satellite data is processed to depict clear and cloudy areas in a visually intuitive fashion. This GEO-plus-LEO imagery merging is complicated by the fact that each individual satellite observes a single 'snapshot' of the cloud patterns, each taken at different times, whereas the underlying clouds themselves are constantly moving and evolving. For the cloudy areas, the brightness and transparency are approximated based upon the cloud top temperature relative to the local radiometric surface temperatures (corrected for surface emissivity variations) at the time of the satellite observation. The technique clearly defines and represents mid- to high-level clouds over both land and ocean. Due to their proximity to the Earth's surface, low-level clouds such as stratocumulus and stratus clouds will be poorly represented with the current technique, since warmer temperatures in this case do not correspond to higher cloud transparency. Overcoming this problem requires the introduction of multispectral channel combinations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Marine Meteorology Divison, Naval Research Laboratory, Monterey, CA, USA 2: Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA 3: Google, Inc., Mountain View, CA, USA

Publication date: March 1, 2010

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