List of atmospheric radiative transfer codes

List of atmospheric radiative transfer codes - this article contains list of atmospheric radiative transfer codes and their applications.


The compilation contains information about the atmospheric radiative transfer, relevant databases, and atmospheric radiation parameterizations. Public domain codes are grouped separately from commercial codes. The codes are classified accordingly to several criteria:

Public molecular absorption databases

Name Author Type Description
HITRAN > Rothman et al. (2005) HITRAN is a compilation of spectroscopic parameters that a variety of computer codes use to predict and simulate the transmission and emission of light in the atmosphere. The original version was created at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories (1960's). The database is maintained and developed at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge MA, USA.
GEISA > Jacquinet-Husson et al. (1999, 2005, 2008) GEISA (Gestion et Etude des Informations Spectroscopiques Atmosphériques: Management and Study of Spectroscopic Information) is a computer-accessible spectroscopic database, designed to facilitate accurate forward radiative transfer calculations using a line-by-line and layer-by-layer approach. It was started over three decades at Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique (LMD/IPSL) in France. GEISA is maintained by the ARA group at LMD (Ecole Polytechnique) for its scientific part and by the ETHER group (CNRS Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique-France) at IPSL (Institut Pierre Simon Laplace) for its technical part. Currently, GEISA is involved in activities related to the assessment of the capabilities of IASI (Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer on board of the METOP European satellite) through the GEISA/IASI database derived from GEISA.

Public line by line codes

Name Author Type Description
LinePak GATS Transmittance/radiance modeling software
LBLRTM , Atmospheric and Environmental Research Line By Line Radiative Transfer Model
GENLN2 > Edwards (1992); Edwards (1987) Edwards line-by-line atmospheric transmission/radiance model
FIRE-ARMS > Gribanov (2001) Line-by-line and look-up table model with some retrieval options.
KCARTA > DeSouza-Machado (2000) Infrared pseudo line-by-line radiative transfer code using compressed lookup tables
RFM > Dudhia (1996 onwards) Reference Forward Model, multi-purpose line-by-line model originally based on GENLN2
4A/OP > Scott and Chédin (1981); NOVELTIS, LMD and CNES (2006) Operational fast and accurate radiative transfer model for the infrared based on atlases of monochromatic optical thicknesses computed line-by-line and layer-by-layer.
FASCODE is another notable line by line code which uses HITRAN.

Public band transmission models

Band transmission models are used to estimate radiative fluxes (for example solar and infrared) of radiance and irradiance at the Earth's surface and in the free atmosphere. The are used, among other things, to estimate amount of incoming solar energy.

Name Author Type Description
BandPak GATS Band transmittance/radiance model
SPCTRAL2 > Bird and Riordan (1984) Transmission model Simple, spectral irradiance model that produces terrestrial spectra between 0.3 and 4.0 µm with a resolution of approximately 10 nm. Inputs to the model include the solar zenith angle, the collector tilt angle, atmospheric turbidity, the amount of precipitable water vapor and ozone, surface pressure, and ground albedo.
Gregg and Carder (1990) Transmission model Calculates spectral transmission of the visible solar radiation between 300-700nm. Takes to account Rayleigh scattering, ozone, oxygen, and marine aerosol scattering and absorption.
MODTRAN Berk et al. (1998) Transmission model with multiple scattering DISORT option The Moderate Resolution Transmittance MODTRAN Code calculates atmospheric transmittance and radiance for frequencies from 0 to 50,000 cm-1 at moderate spectral resolution, primarily 2 cm-1 (20 cm-1 in the UV). The original development of MODTRAN was driven by a need for higher spectral resolution and greater accuracy than that provided by the LOWTRAN series of band model algorithms. Except for its molecular band model parameterization, MODTRAN adopts all the LOWTRAN 7 capabilities, including spherical refractive geometry, solar and lunar source functions, and scattering (Rayleigh, Mie, single and multiple), and default profiles (gases, aerosols, clouds, fogs, and rain).
6S > Vermote, et al. (1997) Transmission model The 6S (Simulation of the Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum) was developed by the Laboratoire d'Optique Atmospherique. The code permits calculations of near-nadir (down-looking) aircraft observations, non lambertian surface conditions, absorbing gases, Rayleigh scattering, and aerosol scattering effects. The spectral resolution is 2.5 nm. There is also a Landsat 7 ETM+ adapted version at Vector (polarized radiative transfer) is available from
RRTM > Mlawer, et al. (1997) Radiative transfer band model with multiple scattering DISORT option RRTM is a correlated k-distribution band radiation model for calculating longwave (10-3250 cm-1) and shortwave (820-50000 cm-1) atmospheric fluxes and heating rates. Gaseous absorption coefficients are provided by LBLRTM, and gaseous absorption from water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, oxygen, methane, nitrous oxide, and various halocarbons is included. The effect of clouds and aerosols are also treated, and DISORT provides the multiple scattering capability.
RRTMG > Iacono, et al. (2008) Radiative transfer band model with 2-stream multiple scattering option RRTMG is an accelerated version of RRTM that provides improved efficiency with minimal loss of accuracy for application to general circulation models. It differs from RRTM in that it uses a 2-stream solver for multiple scattering, it includes aerosol absorption in the longwave, and it applies the Monte-Carlo Independent Column Approximation (McICA) to treat sub-grid scale cloud variability.

Other transmission band codes include LOWTRAN (Kneizs et al., 1983) which is now obsolete, Moderate Spectral Atmospheric Radiance and Transfer (MOSART), SMAC (Rahman and Dedieu, 1994) a Simplified Method for the Atmospheric Correction of Satellite Measurements in the Solar Spectrum , and LidarPC.

Public multiple scattering plane-parallel

Name Author Type Description

Paul Ricchiazzi, Shiren Yang, and Catherine Gautier Plane parallel SBDART (Santa Barbara DISORT Atmospheric Radiative Transfer) is a FORTRAN computer code designed for the analysis of a wide variety of radiative transfer problems encountered in satellite remote sensing and atmospheric energy budget studies.
Fu Plane parallel 2 and 4 stream radiative transfer solver
DISORT Stamnes, Tsay, Wiscombe (Stamnes et al. 1988; Thomas and Stamnes, 1999) Discrete ordinate, plane-parallel N-stream plane parallel code.
STREAMER>J. Key (Key and Schweiger, 1998) Based on DISORT Streamer is a radiative transfer model that can be used for computing either radiances (intensities) or irradiances (fluxes) for a wide variety of atmospheric and surface conditions.
FluxNet >J. Key Neural networks FluxNet is the neural network version of Streamer based on radiative transfer equations. Given a set of input data consisting of surface, cloud, and atmospheric characteristics, FluxNet calculates upwelling and downwelling surface flux in either shortwave or longwave. While it is not as flexible as Streamer, FluxNet is faster by two to four orders of magnitude, making it ideal for large batch jobs and image processing.
SHDOMPP ; SHDOMPPDA Evans (2006) SHDOMPP is the plane-parallel version of SHDOM. SHDOMPPDA is a version of SHDOMPP for data assimilation. SHDOMPPDA includes forward, tangent linear, and adjoint models of SHDOMPP packaged in a Fortran 90 module with an easy to use interface.
The Column Radiation Model, or CRM, is a standalone version of the radiation model used in the NCAR Community Climate Model (CCM).
B. Mayer, U. Hamann, A. Kylling (Mayer and Kylling, 2005) The libRadtran software package is a suite of tools for radiative transfer calculations in the Earth's atmosphere. It may be used to compute radiances, irradiances and actinic fluxes in the solar and terrestrial part of the spectrum.
A. Rozanov, V. Rozanov (Rozanov et al., 2005) Plane-parallel, pseudo-spherical, approximative spherical, fully spherical. Multiple scattering. SCIATRAN is a linearized radiative transfer model designed to simulate the scattered solar radiation and the weighting functions of various atmospheric parameters in the UV-Visible- NearIR spectral range for any viewing geometry (nadir, zenith, off-axis, limb, etc.) and any observer position within and outside the atmosphere.
V. Eymet Plane-parallel, Monte-Carlo, Net-Exchange Formulation KARINE is a fortran77 code for IR radiative transfer simulations and analysis in planetary atmospheres. It uses a Monte-Carlo algorithm that was optimized for fast and accurate results in highly absorbing and scattering atmospheres, and a Net-Exchange Formulation that helps to understand radiative energy redistributions along the vertical. Since it is applicable to any planetary atmosphere, the k-distribution data set must be provided as an input.
Y. Govaerts Plane-parallel, Matrix Operator, Multiple scattering, Solar, Infraread RTMOM is a one-dimensional radiative transfer model written in Fortran 90 language that simulates radiation propagation in a plane-parallel atmosphere composed of horizontally homogeneous layers bounded by an anisotropic scattering surface. These layers may contain aerosols and/or clouds, assuming elastic scattering. The atmosphere is composed of seven different absorbing gases, including, among other, water vapour, ozone and carbon dioxide. Gaseous absorption is calculated with the k-distribution method. The Radiative Transfer Equation is solved with the Matrix Operator Method. The solar and thermal contributions of the radiative field are calculated from 0.25µm up to 15µm for spectral resolutions ranging from 0.001µm to 0.010µm.

Other notable codes include adding ATRAD, adding and doubling code written by W. Wiscombe, T. Nakajima's University of Tokyo code, CLIRAD_LW code by M. D. Chou, and PolRadTran - a plane-parallel fully-polarized atmospheric radiative transfer model of F. Evans. StarNEURO written Schwander, et al. (2001) combines the radiative transfer model with the technique of neural networks. SHARM (Lyapustin, 2005) is a 1D RT model.

Public multiple-scattering, three-dimensional

Name Author Type Description
F. Evans Spherical harmonics This program computes unpolarized monochromatic or spectral band radiative transfer in a one, two, or three-dimensional medium for either collimated solar and/or thermal emission sources of radiation. The properties of the medium can be specified completely generally, i.e. the extinction, single scattering albedo, Legendre coefficients of the scattering phase function, and temperature for the particular wavelength or spectral band may be specified at each input grid point. Radiances at any angle, hemispheric fluxes, net fluxes, mean radiances, and net flux convergence (related to heating rates) may be output anywhere in the domain.
Community model, development led by R. Pincus Monte Carlo The International Intercomparison of 3-Dimensional Radiative Transfer Codes (I3RC) project has sponsored the development of this community Monte Carlo code that simulates 3D solar radiative transfer through the atmosphere. The model can calculate radiative fluxes and radiances (for any view direction) at the top or at the bottom of the domain, and radiative heating rates throughout the domain. It can provide both scene average values and complete fields. The current version includes the general-purpose radiative transfer solver as well as some tools to create the necessary inputs, such as cloud droplet scattering properties (calculated using Mie theory). Users are most welcome to extend the code for other types of calculations.
Other codes include Jeff Haferman DOM and VDOM, Andrea Macke mc-layer, and Monte-Carlo code MCLM by Lihong et al.

Public ocean-atmosphere RT codes

Name Author Type Description
Zhonghai Jin Discrete ordinates The coupled Ocean Atmosphere Radiative Transfer (COART) model can be applied to radiative transfer problems in the coupled atmosphere-ocean system.
Other code is FEMRAD, finite element method.

Public vector (polarization) codes

Name Author Type Description
6SV1 > Vermote et al. (Kotchenova et al., 2006; Kotchenova and Vermote, 2007) Plane-parallel transmission model with multiple scattering 6SV1 (Second Simulation of a Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum, Vector, version 1) is a basic RT code used for calculation of look-up tables in the MODIS atmospheric correction algorithm. It enables accurate simulations of satellite and plane observations, accounting for elevated targets, use of anisotropic and Lambertian surfaces, and calculation of gaseous absorption. The code is based on the vector method of successive orders of scattering (SOS) approximations. The effects of polarization are included through the calculation of four components of the Stokes vector.


This compilation was originally (at the beginning of 2000's) known as RTELIB and was maintained by Piotr J. Flatau at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.



In this subsection we list only books which, besides general content, specifically document available radiative transfer codes. For more complete list of atmospheric radiative transfer related books see an article on atmospheric radiative transfer codes. Mobley (1994) documents in great detail Hydrolight code which is used mostly in ocean optics applications. Thomas and Stamnes (1999) describes DISORT code.

  • Mobley, Curtis D., Light and water : radiative transfer in natural waters; based in part on collaborations with Rudolph W. Preisendorfer, San Diego, Academic Press, 1994, 592 p., ISBN 0125027508
  • Thomas, Gary E.and Knut Stamnes, Radiative transfer in the atmosphere and ocean, Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1999, 517 p., ISBN 0521401240.

Original papers and reports

Original papers and reports documenting available atmospheric radiative transfer codes.

  • Berk, A., Bernstein, L.S., Anderson, G.P., Acharya, P.K., Robertson, D.C., Chetwynd, J.H., Adler-Golden, S. M. , MODTRAN cloud and multiple scattering upgrades with application to AVIRIS, Remote Sensing of Envionment, 65 (3): 367-375 Sep. 1998
  • Bird, R.E., and C. Riordan, Simple Solar Spectral Model for Direct and Diffuse Irradiance on Horizontal and Tilted Planes at the Earth's Surface for Cloudless Atmospheres, Technical Report No. SERI/TR-215-2436, Golden, CO: Solar Energy Research Institute, 1984
  • Cahalan, R. F., L. Oreopoulos, A. Marshak, K. F. Evans, A. Davis, R. Pincus, K. Yetzer, B. Mayer, R. Davies, T. Ackerman, H. Barker, E. Clothiaux, R. Ellingson, M. Garay, E. Kassianov, S. Kinne, A. Macke, W. OHirok, P. Partain, S. Prigarin, A. Rublev, G. Stephens, F. Szczap, E. Takara, T. Varnai, G. Wen, and T. Zhuravleva, 2005: The International Intercomparison of 3D Radiation Codes (I3RC): Bringing together the most advanced radiative transfer tools for cloudy atmospheres. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 86 (9), 1275-1293.
  • Edwards, D. P. (1992), GENLN2: A general line-by-line atmospheric transmittance and radiance model, Version 3.0 description and users guide, NCAR/TN-367-STR, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Co.
  • Edwards, D. P. (1987), GENLN2: The new Oxford line-by-line atmospheric transmission/radiance model, Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics, Memorandum 87.2, University of Oxford, UK.
  • Evans, K. Franklin, SHDOMPPDA: A Radiative Transfer Model for Cloudy Sky Data Assimilation, 2007, Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, in press
  • Eymet. V., R. Fournier, S. Blanco, J.-L. Dufresne; A boundary-based net-exchange Monte-Carlo method for absorbing and scattering thick media, J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer, Vol. 91, pp. 27-46, 2005.
  • Gregg, W. W. and Carder, K. L., A simple spectral solar irradiance model for cloudless maritime atmospheres, Limnol. Oceanogr. 35 1657-1675 , (1990)
  • Gordley, L.L., Marshall, B.T., and Chu. A., LINEPAK: Algorithm for Modeling Spectral Transmittance and Radiance, J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer Vol. 52, No. 5, pp.563-580, 1994
  • Gribanov, K.G., Zakharov, V.I., Tashkun, S.A., Tyuterev, Vl.G. A New Software Tool for Radiative Transfer Calculations and its application to IMG/ADEOS data. JQSRT, vol.68, No.4, pp.435-451, 2001
  • Halthore, Rangasayi N.; Crisp, David; Schwartz, Stephen E.; Anderson, G. P.; Berk, A.; Bonnel, B.; Boucher, O.; Chang, Fu-Lung; Chou, Ming-Dah; Clothiaux, Eugene E.; Dubuisson, P.; Fomin, Boris; Fouquart, Y.; Freidenreich, S.; Gautier, Catherine; Kato, Seiji; Laszlo, Istvan; Li, Z.; Mather, J. H.; Plana-Fattori, Artemio; Ramaswamy, V.; Ricchiazzi, P.; Shiren, Y.; Trishchenko, A.; Wiscombe, W., 2005, Intercomparison of shortwave radiative transfer codes and measurements, J. Geophys. Res., Vol. 110, No. D11, D11206, 10.1029/2004JD005293. Test input and output cases are available for evaluating other radiative transfer codes.
  • Iacono, M. J., J. S. Delamere, E. J. Mlawer, M. W. Shephard, S. A. Clough, and W. D. Collins, Radiative forcing by long-lived greenhouse gases: Calculations with the AER radiative transfer models, J. Geophys. Res., 113, D13103, doi:10.1029/JD009944, 2008.
  • Key, J. and A.J. Schweiger, 1998, Tools for atmospheric radiative transfer: Streamer and FluxNet, Computers & Geosciences, 24(5), 443-451.
  • Kneizys, F.X., E.P. Shettle, W.O. Gallery, J.H. Chetwynd, L.W., Abreu, J.E.A. Selby, S.A. Clough and R.W. Fenn, "Atmospheric transmittance/radiance: computer code LOWTRAN 6", Air Force Geophysics Laboratroy, Report AFGL-TR-83-0187, Hanscom AFB, MA. 1983.
  • Kotchenova, S. Y., E. F. Vermote, R. Matarrese, & F. J. Klemm, Jr., Validation of a vector version of the 6S radiative transfer code for atmospheric correction of satellite data. Part I: Path radiance, Appl. Opt. 45(26), 6762-6774 (2006).
  • Kotchenova S. Y., & E. F. Vermote, Validation of a vector version of the 6S radiative transfer code for atmospheric correction of satellite data. Part II: Homogeneous Lambertian and anisotropic surfaces, Appl. Opt. in press (2007).
  • Lyapustin, A. I., Radiative transfer code SHARM for atmospheric and terrestrial applications, Appl. Opt. 44, 7764-7772, 2005.
  • Mayer, B. and A. Kylling, Technical note: The libRadtran software package for radiative transfer calculations - description and examples of use, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 5, 1855-1877, 2005
  • Marshall, B.T. and Gordley, L.L, BANDPAK: Algorithms for Modeling Broadband Transmission and Radiance, J. Quant. Spectrosc. Radiat. Transfer Vol.52, No. 5, pp. 581-599, 1994.
  • Mlawer, E. J., S. J. Taubman, P. D. Brown, M. J. Iacono, and S. A. Clough, Radiative transfer for inhomogeneous atmospheres: RRTM, a validated correlated-k model for the longwave, J. Geophys. Res., 102, 16663-16682, doi:10.1029/97JD00237, 1997.
  • Rothman L.S., Jacquemart D., Barbe A., Benner D.C., Birk M., Brown L.R., Carleer M.R., Chackerian C., Chance K., Coudert L.H., Dana V., Devi V.M., Flaud J.M., Gamache R.R., Goldman A., Hartmann J.M., Jucks K.W., Maki A.G., Mandin J.Y., Massie S.T., Orphal J., Perrin A., Rinsland C.P., Smith M.A.H., Tennyson J., Tolchenov R.N., Toth R.A., Vander Auwera J., Varanasi P., Wagner G., The HITRAN 2004 molecular spectroscopic database Source: Journal of Quantitative Spectroscopy & Radiative Transfer, 96 (2): 139-204 DEC 1 2005
  • Rozanov, A., V. Rozanov, M. Buchwitz, A. Kokhanovsky, J.P. Burrows, SCIATRAN 2.0 - A new radiative transfer model for geophysical applications in the 175-2400 nm spectral region, Adv. Space Res., Vol. 36(5), 1015-1019, doi:10.1016/j.asr.2005.03.012, 2005.
  • Schwander, H., A. Kaifel, A. Ruggaber, and P. Koepke, Spectral radiative transfer modelling with minimized computation time using neural network technique., Appl. Opt., Vol. 40, No. 3, p. 331-335, 2001.
  • Stamnes, K., S. Tsay, W. Wiscombe and K. Jayaweera, 1988: Numerically stable algorithm for discrete-ordinate-method radiative transfer in multiple scattering and emitting layered media. Appl. Opt., 27, 2502-2509.
  • Vermote, E.F., Tanre, D., Deuze, J.L., Herman, M., Morcrette, J.J., Second Simulation of the Satellite Signal in the Solar Spectrum, 6S: An overview, IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 35 (3): 675-686 May 1997.

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