In urban environments, aerosol distributions may change rapidly due to building and transport infrastructure and human population density variations. The recent availability of medium resolution Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2 satellite data provide the opportunity for aerosol optical depth (AOD) estimation at higher spatial resolution than provided by other satellites. AOD retrieved from 30 m Landsat-8 and 10 m Sentinel-2A data using the Land Surface Reflectance Code (LaSRC) were compared with coincident ground-based Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) Version 3 AOD data for 20 Chinese cities in 2016. Stringent selection criteria were used to select contemporaneous data; only satellite and AERONET data acquired within 10 min were considered. The average satellite retrieved AOD over a 1470 m × 1470 m window centered on each AERONET site was derived to capture fine scale urban AOD variations. AERONET Level 1.5 (cloud-screened) and Level 2.0 (cloud-screened and also quality assured) data were considered. For the 20 urban AERONET sites in 2016 there were 106 (Level 1.5) and 67 (Level 2.0) Landsat-8 AERONET AOD contemporaneous data pairs, and 118 (Level 1.5) and 89 (Level 2.0) Sentinel-2A AOD data pairs. The greatest AOD values (>1.5) occurred in Beijing, suggesting that the Chinese capital was one of the most polluted cities in China in 2016. The LaSRC Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2A AOD retrievals agreed well with the AERONET AOD data (linear regression slopes > 0.96; coefficient of determination r2
> 0.90; root mean square deviation < 0.175) and demonstrate that the LaSRC is an effective and applicable medium resolution AOD retrieval algorithm over urban environments. The Sentinel-2A AOD retrievals had better accuracy than the Landsat-8 AOD retrievals, which is consistent with previously published research. The implications of the research and the potential for urban aerosol monitoring by combining the freely available Landsat-8 and Sentinel-2 satellite data are discussed.
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