Horizontal visibility (HVIS) is a primary index used for assessing air quality. Although satellite images provide information regarding atmospheric aerosols, atmospheric visibility is not directly measured. In this paper, a deep learning approach is proposed to retrieve HVIS using moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) aerosol optical depth (AOD) data, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts reanalysis dataset, and ground-based visibility observations. The deep neural network model comprises a multi-layer unsupervised restricted Boltzmann machine (RBM) and a layer for supervised learning. The dropout mechanism was used in the training process to overcome the errors caused by over-fitting. The results demonstrate that the correlation coefficient values between HVIS observations and retrievals during training, pre-validating, and evaluation were 0.74, 0.723, and 0.697, respectively. The retrieved HVIS in Eastern China exhibited a north-to-south increasing trend, increasing and decreasing in summer and winter, respectively. In conclusion, the proposed model presents an effective and more reliable method for HVIS retrieval. However, the small samples, low AOD, low albedo, high total column water, high longitude, and the low vertical wind component at 10 m likely cause HVIS bias.
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