Improvement of the simulation of cloud longwave scattering in broadband radiative transfer models

Guanglin Tang, Ping Yang, George W. Kattawar, Xianglei Huang, Eli J. Mlawer, Bryan A. Baum, Michael D. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Cloud longwave scattering is generally neglected in general circulation models (GCMs), but it plays a significant and highly uncertain role in the atmospheric energy budget as demonstrated in recent studies. To reduce the errors caused by neglecting cloud longwave scattering, two new radiance adjustment methods are developed that retain the computational efficiency of broadband radiative transfer simulations. In particular, two existing scaling methods and the two new adjustment methods are implemented in the Rapid Radiative Transfer Model (RRTM). The results are then compared with those based on the Discrete Ordinate Radiative Transfer model (DISORT) that explicitly accounts for multiple scattering by clouds. The two scaling methods are shown to improve the accuracy of radiative transfer simulations for optically thin clouds but not effectively for optically thick clouds. However, the adjustment methods reduce computational errors over a wide range, from optically thin to thick clouds. With the adjustment methods, the errors resulting from neglecting cloud longwave scattering are reduced to less than 2 W m-2 for the upward irradiance at the top of the atmosphere and less than 0.5 W m-2 for the surface downward irradiance. The adjustment schemes prove to be more accurate and efficient than a four-stream approximation that explicitly accounts for multiple scattering. The neglect of cloud longwave scattering results in an underestimate of the surface downward irradiance (cooling effect), but the errors are almost eliminated by the adjustment methods (warming effect).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2217-2233
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Atmospheric Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018


  • Atmosphere
  • Cirrus clouds
  • Climate models
  • Cloud radiative effects
  • Radiative fluxes
  • Radiative transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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