A model for the accelerated calculation of clear sky fluxes based on the line-by-line radiance model FASCODE has been developed and applied to the calculation of cooling rates for atmospheric water vapor. The model achieves computational accuracies for the longwave upwelling and downwelling fluxes of the order of 0.2%, an accuracy well within current limitations imposed by uncertainties in the spectral parameters, the line shape, and the associated continua. For the same treatment of line shape, the Voigt profile with a 10 cm−1 cutoff and no continuum, the results from the present model are in acceptable agreement with those from two other line-by-line models reported as part of the intercomparison of radiation codes used in climate models (ICRCCM). For this line profile and the mid-latitude summer atmosphere, the largest difference between the results from our model and the Goddard Laboratory for Atmospheres (GLA) model occurs for the downwelling flux at the surface, with the present model providing a value greater than that from GLA. The differences are generally consistent with greater atmospheric opacity from the present model, attributable to the inclusion of a self-broadening component for the half width for water and to finer spectral sampling in the lower-pressure regime. Utilization of the line shape and associated continuum model included in FASCODE gives results that are significantly different from those provided by the other two models. This radiance model, including contributions from the foreign continuum as well as from a modified self-continuum, has received extensive validation against measured radiance spectra, an example of which is provided. For the mid-latitude summer atmosphere the principal contribution from the foreign continuum occurs in the upper troposphere in the 250–350 cm−1 spectral region, whereas the contribution from the self-continuum, dependent on the square of the water vapor density, is greatest in the lower troposphere. For the mid-latitude summer atmosphere the foreign continuum contributes 0.4 Kd−1 or 20% to the cooling in the upper troposphere and the self-continuum contributes 1.9 K d−1 to the cooling rate at the surface due to water vapor. The latter is 0.17 K d−1 less than the cooling rate from the GLA model which is principally due to a modification of the self-continuum. A significant result that has developed from the present work is the insight into atmospheric radiative processes provided by spectral profiles of the cooling rate. In the spectral domain there exists a mapping between the altitude and the molecular absorption strength as weighted by the Planck function. The extremely high correlation between the outgoing spectral radiance at the top of the atmosphere and the spectral cooling rate profile suggests that measurement of the outgoing spectral radiance can provide important information about atmospheric state that is not available from spectrally integrated quantities. Our results also indicate the critical importance of the spectral region from 100 to 600 cm−1 for the radiative transfer associated with atmospheric water vapor.
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