Michael J. Foster

Associate Researcher
Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies
University of Wisconsin - Madison

Dr. Foster's research is focused primarily on satellite remote sensing and aspects of climate change related to micro- and macrophysical cloud processes. He is part of the Pathfinder Atmospheres–Extended (PATMOS-x) Cloud Team, where his primary work involves making cloud records from operational satellite imagers (e.g. AVHRR, MODIS, VIIRS) suitable for climate applications.

Dr. Foster works at the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. He received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from Rutgers University in 2008. His dissertation research focused on the development of a stochastic cloud shortwave radiation parameterization for use in general circulation models.

Current Projects

Funding Agency: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC)

Title: "Consistent Cloud Thematic Climate Data Records from Historical, Current, and Future NOAA POES Sensors."


I serve as the CIMSS PI for this project. Our main goal is to support the NOAA NCDC’s Climate Data Record (CDR) program.  Specifically, the Pathfinder Atmospheres – Extended (PATMOS-x) CDR, which is composed of both the AVHRR Reflectance – PATMOS-x Fundamental (FCDR) and the AVHRR Cloud Properties – PATMOS-x Thematic (TCDR). In 2014 we oversaw the bulk delivery of the entire PATMOS-x CDR. The AVHRR Reflectance FCDR record begins in 1978 while the AVHRR Cloud Properties TCDR begins in 1981, and both exist through present. We also established automated delivery to NCDC of near real-time FCDR and TCDR records as they become available (~1 week latency). The record can be found here.

The other goal of this project is development of a combined AVHRR + HIRS Cloud TCDR derived from the PATMOS-x AVHRR FCDR and the Menzel HIRS FCDR. Including spectral information from a sounder (HIRS) allows us to address some of the historical shortcomings of an imager-only (AVHRR) cloud climatology. Specifically the water vapor channels from HIRS improves optically thin cirrus detection, particularly over snow or sea ice in polar regions, while the CO2 channels allow us to more accurately determine the cloud-top heights of cirrus via the C02-slicing technique.

Funding Agency: NASA

Title: "Generation of a Radiatively Consistent MODIS Cloud Validation Tool"


I received this Grant as part of the NASA New (Early Career) Investigator Program in Earth Science. The goal is to develop a MODIS-based maritime water cloud record with radiatively consistent cloud property distributions, corrected for internal and external cloud inhomogeneity. We are employing two methods to achieve this goal. The first applies a fit method (Foster et al. 2011) to derive horizontal (i.e in-cloud) distributions of cloud liquid water path that are consistent with the observed distribution of solar reflectance. The second employs 3-D model simulations (and the results from the first procedure) to characterize that portion of the solar reflectance attributable to horizontal cloud inhomogeneity versus that attributable to cloud field morphology effects such as illumination, shadowing and horizontal photon flow. The data set will be over a decade in length and will have several immediate applications, including model parameterization development, testing climate forcing and cloud feedback hypotheses, solar RT validation studies, and global change studies.


Google Scholar Citation

Contact Information

Dr. Michael J. Foster
Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies
University of Wisconsin - Madison
1225 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53706
ph. 608-261-1361

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