Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) is a next-generation polar-orbiting operational environmental sensor with a capability for global aerosol observations. A comprehensive validation of VIIRS products is significant for improving product quality, assessing environment quality for human life, and studying regional climate change. In this study, three-year (from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2016) records of VIIRS Intermediate Product (IP) data and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) retrievals on aerosol optical depth (AOD) at 550 nm were evaluated by comparing them to ground sun photometer measurements over Wuhan. Results indicated that VIIRS IP retrievals were underestimated by 5% for the city. A comparison of VIIRS IP retrievals and ground sun photometer measurements showed a lower R2
of 0.55 (0.79 for Terra-MODIS and 0.76 for Aqua-MODIS), with only 52% of retrievals falling within the expected error range established by MODIS over land (i.e., ±(0.05 + 0.15AOD)). Bias analyses with different Ångström exponents (AE) demonstrated that land aerosol model selection of the VIIRS retrieval over Wuhan was appropriate. However, the larger standard deviations (i.e., uncertainty) of VIIRS AODs than MODIS AODs could be attributed to the less robust retrieval algorithm. Monthly variations displayed largely underestimated AODs of VIIRS in winter, which could be caused by a large positive bias in surface reflectance estimation due to the sparse vegetation and greater surface brightness of Wuhan in this season. The spatial distribution of VIIRS and MODIS AOD observations revealed that the VIIRS IP AODs over high-pollution areas (AOD > 0.8) with sparse vegetation were underestimated by more than 20% in Wuhan, and 40% in several regions. Analysis of several clear rural areas (AOD < 0.2) with native vegetation indicated an overestimation of about 20% in the northeastern region of the city. These findings showed that the VIIRS IP AOD at 550 nm can provide a solid dataset with a high resolution (750 m) for quantitative scientific investigations and environmental monitoring over Wuhan. However, the performance of dark target algorithms in VIIRS was associated with aerosol types and ground vegetation conditions.
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