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Using CALIOP to estimate cloud-field base height and its uncertainty: the Cloud Base Altitude Spatial Extrapolator (CBASE) algorithm and dataset

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Abstract. A technique is presented that uses attenuated backscatter profiles from the CALIOP satellite lidar to estimate cloud base heights of lower-troposphere liquid clouds (cloud base height below approximately 3 km). Even when clouds are thick enough to attenuate the lidar beam (optical thickness τ ≳ 5), the technique provides cloud base heights by treating the cloud base height of nearby thinner clouds as representative of the surrounding cloud field. Using ground-based ceilometer data, uncertainty estimates for the cloud base height product at retrieval resolution are derived as a function of various properties of the CALIOP lidar profiles. Evaluation of the predicted cloud base heights and their predicted uncertainty using a second, statistically independent, ceilometer dataset shows that cloud base heights and uncertainties are biased by less than 10 %. Geographic distributions of cloud base height and its uncertainty are presented. In some regions, the uncertainty is found to be substantially smaller than the 480 m uncertainty assumed in the A-Train surface downwelling longwave estimate, potentially permitting the most uncertain of the radiative fluxes in the climate system to be better constrained. The cloud base dataset is available at

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