Radiative transfer for inhomogeneous atmospheres: RRTM, a validated correlated-k model for the longwave

Author: Eli J. Mlawer, S. J. Taubman, P. D. Brown, Michael J. Iacono and S. A. Clough
January 2, 1997
Journal Article
Journal of Geophysical Research

Mlawer, E. J., S. J. Taubman, P. D. Brown, M. J. Iacono, and S. A. Clough (1997), Radiative transfer for inhomogeneous atmospheres: RRTM, a validated correlated-k model for the longwave, J. Geophys. Res., 102(D14), 16,663–16,682, doi:10.1029/97JD00237.

A rapid and accurate radiative transfer model (RRTM) for climate applications has been developed and the results extensively evaluated. The current version of RRTM calculates fluxes and cooling rates for the longwave spectral region (10–3000 cm−1) for an arbitrary clear atmosphere. The molecular species treated in the model are water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, methane, nitrous oxide, and the common halocarbons. The radiative transfer in RRTM is performed using the correlated-k method: the k distributions are attained directly from the LBLRTM line-by-line model, which connects the absorption coefficients used by RRTM to high-resolution radiance validations done with observations. Refined methods have been developed for treating bands containing gases with overlapping absorption, for the determination of values of the Planck function appropriate for use in the correlated-k approach, and for the inclusion of minor absorbing species in a band. The flux and cooling rate results of RRTM are linked to measurement through the use of LBLRTM, which has been substantially validated with observations. Validations of RRTM using LBLRTM have been performed for the midlatitude summer, tropical, midlatitude winter, subarctic winter, and four atmospheres from the Spectral Radiance Experiment campaign. On the basis of these validations the longwave accuracy of RRTM for any atmosphere is as follows: 0.6 W m−2 (relative to LBLRTM) for net flux in each band at all altitudes, with a total (10–3000 cm−1) error of less than 1.0 W m−2 at any altitude; 0.07 K d−1 for total cooling rate error in the troposphere and lower stratosphere, and 0.75 K d−1 in the upper stratosphere and above. Other comparisons have been performed on RRTM using LBLRTM to gauge its sensitivity to changes in the abundance of specific species, including the halocarbons and carbon dioxide. The radiative forcing due to doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide is attained with an accuracy of 0.24 W m−2, an error of less than 5%. The speed of execution of RRTM compares favorably with that of other rapid radiation models, indicating that the model is suitable for use in general circulation models.