Collaborative Research: Systematic Evaluation and Further Improvement of Present Broadband Radiative Transfer Modeling Capabilities Grant uri icon


  • The terrestrial climate system is sensitive to the radiation budget. Thus, accurate knowledge about the solar and thermal infrared radiation in the coupled atmosphere-ocean system is critical to robust climate study. An example of this sensitivity is the suggestion that a 1% decrease in the solar constant could lead to an ice age. The effect of doubling CO2 on radiative forcing is approximately 4 Wm-2, whereas uncertainties in radiation simulations due to, for example, insufficient knowledge about the optical properties of clouds, may be larger than this value. During the 1980s and 1990s, many researchers made substantial progress in developing and improving radiative transfer schemes used in general climate models (GCMs), and various intercomparisons of GCM radiation codes were published. Since that time, significant progress has been made in light scattering computational methods, in-situ measurements and laboratory studies of the optical and microphysical properties of clouds and aerosols, gaseous absorption line parameters and the water vapor continuum absorption, optical properties of various oceanic constituents, and the efficiency of numerical schemes for solving radiative transfer equations. There is a pressing need to incorporate the aforesaid progress into radiative transfer modeling capabilities. Moreover, the ocean and atmosphere are not coupled in many existing radiative transfer models. The scattering and absorption of radiation by oceanic water, dissolved organic matter (the so-called yellow substance), and phytoplankton have an influence in heating the uppermost water layers, and consequently affect thermal and dynamic properties such as the sea surface temperature and depth of the mixed atmosphere-ocean layer. The reflection of radiation by the oceans, including the effects of a wavy air-water interface and whitecap, can also affect the spectral characteristics and magnitude of radiation and, thus, the radiative heating and cooling rates in the atmosphere. The overarching goal is to systematically evaluate and further improve current radiative transfer modeling capabilities. Intellectual Merit: The outcomes of the study will include 1) systematic quantification of the potential errors/inaccuracies of the aforesaid radiative transfer models, 2) extension of the current radiative transfer modeling capabilities to an atmosphere-ocean coupled system, 3) implementation of spectrally consistent parameterizations of ice clouds and dust aerosols, and 4) development and implementation of a computationally efficient radiative transfer solver. Broader Impacts: The research effort will improve the radiative transfer package currently used in climate models, and be a valuable contribution to the atmospheric radiative transfer and climate study communities. Furthermore, the light scattering modeling and parameterization capabilities can find potential applications in other areas such as remote sensing of dust aerosol and ice cloud properties. The associated educational pursuits will focus on mentoring a postdoc researcher, training a graduate student, and developing teaching materials. This effort will contribute to training young researchers in the discipline of radiative transfer and light scattering that is a quite unique branch of atmospheric physics. Furthermore, the integration of RRTMG into classroom teaching will directly benefit the educational program in atmospheric sciences, particularly, in hands-on experience in atmospheric radiative transfer simulation.

date/time interval

  • 2016 - 2020