Two-Dimensional Radiative Transfer in Cloudy Atmospheres: The Spherical Harmonic Spatial Grid Method

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  • 1 Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Abstract

A new two-dimensional monochromatic method that computes the transfer of solar or thermal radiation through atmospheres with arbitrary optical properties is described. The model discretizes the radiative transfer equation by expanding the angular part of the radiance field in a spherical harmonic series and representing the spatial part with a discrete grid. The resulting sparse coupled system of equations is solved iteratively with the conjugate gradient method. A Monte Carlo model is used for extensive verification of outgoing flux and radiance values from both smooth and highly variable (multifractal) media. The spherical harmonic expansion naturally allows for different levels of approximation, but tests show that the 2D equivalent of the two-stream approximation is poor at approximating variations in the outgoing flux. The model developed here is shown to be highly efficient so that media with tens of thousands of grid points can be computed in minutes. The large improvement in efficiency will permit quick, accurate radiative transfer calculations of realistic cloud fields and improve our understanding of the effect of inhomogeneity on radiative transfer in cloudy atmospheres.

Abstract

A new two-dimensional monochromatic method that computes the transfer of solar or thermal radiation through atmospheres with arbitrary optical properties is described. The model discretizes the radiative transfer equation by expanding the angular part of the radiance field in a spherical harmonic series and representing the spatial part with a discrete grid. The resulting sparse coupled system of equations is solved iteratively with the conjugate gradient method. A Monte Carlo model is used for extensive verification of outgoing flux and radiance values from both smooth and highly variable (multifractal) media. The spherical harmonic expansion naturally allows for different levels of approximation, but tests show that the 2D equivalent of the two-stream approximation is poor at approximating variations in the outgoing flux. The model developed here is shown to be highly efficient so that media with tens of thousands of grid points can be computed in minutes. The large improvement in efficiency will permit quick, accurate radiative transfer calculations of realistic cloud fields and improve our understanding of the effect of inhomogeneity on radiative transfer in cloudy atmospheres.

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