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Space–Time Characteristics of Light Transmitted through Dense Clouds: A...

Davis, A. B., and A. Marshak (2002), Space–Time Characteristics of Light Transmitted through Dense Clouds: A Green’s Function Analysis, J. Atmos. Sci., 59, 2713-2727, doi:10.1175/1520-0469(2002)059<2713:STCOLT>2.0.CO;2.

Here, previous work using photon diffusion theory to describe radiative transfer through dense plane-parallel clouds at nonabsorbing wavelengths is extended. The focus is on the scaling of space- and time-domain moments for transmitted light with respect to cloud thickness H and optical depth tau; and the new results are as follows: accurate prefactors for asymptotic scaling, preasymptotic correction terms in closed form, 3D effects for internal variability in tau, and the rms transit time or pathlength. Mean pathlength is ~H for dimensional reasons and, from random-walk theory, we already know that it is also ~(1–g)tau for large enough tau (g being the asymmetry factor). Here, it is shown that the prefactor is precisely 1/2 and that corrections are significant for (1–g)tau < 10, which includes most actual boundary layer clouds. It is also shown that rms pathlength is not much larger than the mean for transmittance (its prefactor is √7/20 ≈ 0.59); this proves that, in sharp contrast with reflection, pathlength distributions are quite narrow in transmission. If the light originates from a steady point source on a cloud boundary, a fuzzy spot is observed on the opposite boundary. This problem is formally mapped to the pulsed source problem, and it is shown that the rms radius of this spot slowly approaches √2/3 H as tau increases; it is also shown that the transmitted spot shape has a flat top and an exponential tail. Because all preasymptotic corrections are computed here, the diffusion results are accurate when compared to Monte Carlo counterparts for tau > 5, whereas the classic scaling relations apply only for tau > 70, assuming g = 0.85. The temporal quantities shed light on observed absorption properties and optical lightning waveforms. The spatial quantity controls the three-dimensional radiative smoothing process in transmission, which was recently observed in spectral analyses of time series of zenith radiance at 725 nm. Opportunities in ground-based cloud remote sensing using the new developments are described and illustrated with simulations of 3D solar radiative transfer in realistic models of stratocumulus. Finally, since this analytical diffusion study applies only to weakly variable stratus layers, extensions to more complex cloud systems using anomalous diffusion theory are discussed.

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Research Program: 
Radiation Science Program (RSP)