Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

The Impacts of Light Scattering by Clouds on Longwave Radiative Transfer

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 - 13:40
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In the longwave spectrum, clouds modulate energy budgets in the climate system through scattering, absorbing and emitting radiation. On the average, ice clouds tend to warm the climate, while liquid water clouds cool the climate, due to the distinct physical and optical properties of ice and liquid water clouds.

General circulation models (GCMs) are the most popular tool to investigate the influences of clouds on climate. However, most GCMs, due to computational complexity, neglect multiple scattering effects in longwave radiative transfer calculations. To evaluate the potential impacts of neglecting longwave multiple scattering, we conduct sensitivity studies, utilizing the ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts) reanalysis atmospheric profiles, a modified RRTMG_LW (Longwave Rapid Radiative Transfer Model for GCM applications) and the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) collection 6 level 3 cloud retrieval products. The modified RRTMG_LW uses the 16-stream DISORT (Discrete Ordinates Radiative Transfer Program for a Multi-Layered Plane-Parallel Medium) as a robust radiative solver to calculate longwave fluxes.

In the study, the bias in longwave flux (simulated without, minus simulated with, light scattering by ice and liquid water clouds) represents the influence of neglecting light scattering. Biases of upward flux at the top of the atmosphere, downward flux at the surface, and net flux into the atmosphere are presented. The preliminary results show that the absence of longwave light scattering could lead to considerable biases in global and regional flux simulations.

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