Towards a Generic Radiative Transfer Model for the Earth's Surface Atmosphere System

The aim of the study is to develop a flexible radiative transfer toolbox for the Earth atmosphere-surface system in the solar and thermal spectral ranges. In particular, the model will include horizontal inhomogeneity, polarization, inelastic scattering, spherical geometry.

Radiative transfer models are very important for a better understanding of the Earth-atmosphere system. Solar radiation drives atmospheric circulation and hence weather and climate. Tropospheric and stratospheric chemistry are controlled by photochemical reactions and hence by shortwave radiation. Accurate knowledge about solar and terrestrial radiation and their interaction with clouds, aerosol particles, and trace gases is therefore required for all fields of atmospheric science.

Remote sensing of atmospheric and surface components uses radiation, either from the sun, the atmosphere or an artificial source which is modified along its path through the atmosphere. Radiative transfer modelling plays a key role for remote sensing because it is needed to design remote sensing instruments and to develop and test inversion algorithms. In the scientfic community a number of often highly specialized atmospheric radiative transfer (RT) models has been developed each of which emanates from a different set of original requirements. During the development of RT models a trade off has to be made between the computational speed and the accuracy of the model leading to a long list of model simplifications. Currently there is no user friendly well documented model which includes all features required for current remote sensing applications.

The radiative transfer toolbox to be developed in this study, hereafter referred to as libRadtran toolbox, should include the most commonly used forward modeling RT tools from the ultraviolet (UV) to the thermal infrared (TIR) spectral domain for the Earth atmosphere-surface system. At completion, a libRadtran toolbox demonstration version shall be delivered. This toolbox shall -strengthen ESA modeling capability for internal purposes (instrument and prototyping of inversion algorithms) and -provide a set of standard radiative transfer tools for the development of ESA commissioned inversion schemes and calibration/validation activities.

The long term objective of the study is to give actors in the field of remote sensing of planetary environments full access to a user friendly, open source, well documented and free of charge radiative transfer toolbox.

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