Anisotropic reflectance correction (ARC) of satellite imagery is required to remove multi-scale topographic effects in imagery. Commonly utilized ARC approaches have not effectively accounted for atmosphere-topographic coupling. Furthermore, it is not clear which topographic effects need to be formally accounted for. Consequently, we simulate the direct and diffuse-skylight irradiance components and formally account for multi-scale topographic effects. A sensitivity analysis was used to determine if characterization schemes can account for a collective treatment of effects, using our parameterization scheme as a basis for comparison. We found that commonly used assumptions could not account for topographic modulation in our simulations. We also found that the use of isotropic diffuse irradiance and a topographic shielding parameter also failed to characterize topographic modulation. Our results reveal that topographic effects govern irradiance variations in a synergistic way, and that issues of ARC need to be formally addressed given atmosphere-topography coupling. Collectively, our results suggest that empirical ARC methods cannot be used to effectively address topographic effects, given inadequate parameterization schemes. Characterizing and removing spectral variation from multispectral imagery will most likely require numerical modeling efforts. More research is warranted to develop/evaluate parameterization schemes that better characterize the anisotropic nature of atmosphere-topography coupling.