Application of three-dimensional solar radiative transfer to mountains


Chen, Y, A Hall, and KN Liou. 2006. “Application of three-dimensional solar radiative transfer to mountains.” Journal of Geophysical Research—Atmospheres 111: D21111.


We developed a three‐dimensional radiative transfer model simulating solar fluxes over mountain surfaces precisely given distributions of atmospheric scatterers and absorbers. The model quantifies direct, diffuse, terrain‐reflected, and coupling (i.e., photons reflected and scattered more than once) fluxes. We applied it to a midlatitude mountainous surface to study these components' diurnal, seasonal, and geographical variability under clear skies. Domain‐averaged direct and diffuse fluxes together comprise over 96% of the flux year‐round, with diffuse fluxes' relative importance varying inversely with that of direct radiation. Direct fluxes generally account for at least 80% of the total. However, the domain‐averaged diffuse flux proportion increases to nearly 40% at high zenith angles, and approaches 100% when neighboring slopes obscure the surface from the Sun. Terrain‐reflected and coupling components each account for less than 1% throughout much of the year. However, together they comprise ∼3% when surface albedo increases during winter and are similarly nonnegligible in deep valleys all year. We also studied controls on geographical variations in flux components: The sky view factor, a conventional predictor of diffuse fluxes, is surprisingly weakly correlated with them, posing a parameterization challenge. Terrain‐reflected and coupling fluxes may be easier to parameterize given topography. Finally, we assessed shortwave errors in General Circulation Models with smoothed topography by comparing results with the mountainous surface to identical calculations for a flat surface with the same mean elevation. The differences range from 5 to 20 W/m2 and arise because the atmosphere absorbs a different amount of sunshine when underlying topography is smoothed.

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Last updated on 03/25/2020