The atmosphere has substantial effects on optical remote sensing imagery of the Earth’s surface from space. These effects come through the functioning of atmospheric particles on the radiometric transfer from the Earth’s surface through the atmosphere to the sensor in space. Precipitable water vapor (PWV), CO2
, ozone, and aerosol in the atmosphere are very important among the particles through their functioning. This study presented an algorithm to retrieve total PWV from the Chinese second-generation polar-orbiting meteorological satellite FengYun 3D Medium Resolution Spectral Imager 2 (FY-3D MERSI-2) data, which have three near-infrared (NIR) water vapor absorbing channels, i.e., channel 16, 17, and 18. The algorithm was improved from the radiance ratio technique initially developed for Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data. MODTRAN 5 was used to simulate the process of radiant transfer from the ground surfaces to the sensor at various atmospheric conditions for estimation of the coefficients of ratio technique, which was achieved through statistical regression analysis between the simulated radiance and transmittance values for FY-3D MERSI-2 NIR channels. The algorithm was then constructed as a linear combination of the three-water vapor absorbing channels of FY-3D MERSI-2. Measurements from two ground-based reference datasets were used to validate the algorithm: the sun photometer measurements of Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET) and the microwave radiometer measurements of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program (ARMP). The validation results showed that the algorithm performs very well when compared with the ground-based reference datasets. The estimated PWV values come with root mean square error (RMSE) of 0.28 g/cm2
for the ARMP and 0.26 g/cm2
for the AERONET datasets, with bias of 0.072 g/cm2
and 0.096 g/cm2
for the two reference datasets, respectively. The accuracy of the proposed algorithm revealed a better consistency with ground-based reference datasets. Thus, the proposed algorithm could be used as an alternative to retrieve PWV from FY-3D MERSI-2 data for various remote sensing applications such as agricultural monitoring, climate change, hydrologic cycle, and so on at various regional and global scales.
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