Articles | Volume 5, issue 9
Research article
20 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 20 Sep 2012

Reduction of radiation biases by incorporating the missing cloud variability by means of downscaling techniques: a study using the 3-D MoCaRT model

S. Gimeno García, T. Trautmann, and V. Venema

Abstract. Handling complexity to the smallest detail in atmospheric radiative transfer models is unfeasible in practice. On the one hand, the properties of the interacting medium, i.e., the atmosphere and the surface, are only available at a limited spatial resolution. On the other hand, the computational cost of accurate radiation models accounting for three-dimensional heterogeneous media are prohibitive for some applications, especially for climate modelling and operational remote-sensing algorithms. Hence, it is still common practice to use simplified models for atmospheric radiation applications.

Three-dimensional radiation models can deal with complex scenarios providing an accurate solution to the radiative transfer. In contrast, one-dimensional models are computationally more efficient, but introduce biases to the radiation results.

With the help of stochastic models that consider the multi-fractal nature of clouds, it is possible to scale cloud properties given at a coarse spatial resolution down to a higher resolution. Performing the radiative transfer within the cloud fields at higher spatial resolution noticeably helps to improve the radiation results.

We present a new Monte Carlo model, MoCaRT, that computes the radiative transfer in three-dimensional inhomogeneous atmospheres. The MoCaRT model is validated by comparison with the consensus results of the Intercomparison of Three-Dimensional Radiation Codes (I3RC) project.

In the framework of this paper, we aim at characterising cloud heterogeneity effects on radiances and broadband fluxes, namely: the errors due to unresolved variability (the so-called plane parallel homogeneous, PPH, bias) and the errors due to the neglect of transversal photon displacements (independent pixel approximation, IPA, bias). First, we study the effect of the missing cloud variability on reflectivities. We will show that the generation of subscale variability by means of stochastic methods greatly reduce or nearly eliminate the reflectivity biases. Secondly, three-dimensional broadband fluxes in the presence of realistic inhomogeneous cloud fields sampled at high spatial resolutions are calculated and compared to their one-dimensional counterparts at coarser resolutions. We found that one-dimensional calculations at coarsely resolved cloudy atmospheres systematically overestimate broadband reflected and absorbed fluxes and underestimate transmitted ones.