Intercomparison of general purpose clear sky atmospheric radiative transfer models for the millimeter/submillimeter spectral range



[1] We compare a number of radiative transfer models for atmospheric sounding in the millimeter and submillimeter wavelength range, check their consistency, and investigate their deviations from each other. This intercomparison deals with three different aspects of radiative transfer models: (1) the inherent physics of gaseous absorption lines and how they are modeled, (2) the calculation of absorption coefficients, and (3) the full calculation of radiative transfer for different geometries, i.e., up-looking, down-looking, and limb-looking. The correctness and consistency of the implementations are tested by comparing calculations with predefined input such as spectroscopic data, line shape, continuum absorption model, and frequency grid. The absorption coefficients and brightness temperatures calculated by the different models are generally within about 1% of each other. Furthermore, the variability or uncertainty of the model results is estimated if (except for the atmospheric scenario) the input such as spectroscopic data, line shape, and continuum absorption model could be chosen freely. Here the models deviate from each other by about 10% around the center of major absorption lines. The main cause of such discrepancies is the variability of reported spectroscopic data for line absorption and of the continuum absorption model. Further possible causes of discrepancies are different frequency and pressure grids and differences in the corresponding interpolation routines, as well as differences in the line shape functions used, namely a prefactor of (ν/ν0) or (ν/ν0)2 of the Van-Vleck-Weisskopf line shape function. Whether or not the discrepancies affect retrieval results remains to be investigated for each application individually.