Solar radiation transport in the cloudy atmosphere: A 3D perspective on...

Davis, A. B., and A. Marshak (2010), Solar radiation transport in the cloudy atmosphere: A 3D perspective on observations and climate impacts, Reports on Progress in Physics, 73, 26801-26870, doi:10.1088/0034-4885/73/2/026801.

The interplay of sunlight with clouds is a ubiquitous and often pleasant visual experience, but it conjures up major challenges for weather, climate, environmental science and beyond. Those engaged in the characterization of clouds (and the clear air nearby) by remote sensing methods are even more confronted. The problem comes, on the one hand, from the spatial complexity of real clouds and, on the other hand, from the dominance of multiple scattering in the radiation transport. The former ingredient contrasts sharply with the still popular representation of clouds as homogeneous plane-parallel slabs for the purposes of radiative transfer computations. In typical cloud scenes the opposite asymptotic transport regimes of diffusion and ballistic propagation coexist. We survey the three-dimensional (3D) atmospheric radiative transfer literature over the past 50 years and identify three concurrent and intertwining thrusts: first, how to assess the damage (bias) caused by 3D effects in the operational 1D radiative transfer models? Second, how to mitigate this damage? Finally, can we exploit 3D radiative transfer phenomena to innovate observation methods and technologies? We quickly realize that the smallest scale resolved computationally or observationally may be artificial but is nonetheless a key quantity that separates the 3D radiative transfer solutions into two broad and complementary classes: stochastic and deterministic. Both approaches draw on classic and contemporary statistical, mathematical and computational physics. (Some figures in this article are in colour only in the electronic version) This article was invited by A Kostinski.

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Radiation Science Program (RSP)
Terra- MISR