Course Info

  Course Syllabus

  Course Calendar

  Policies & Expectations


  Material Covered in Class

  Homework assignments

  Course project

  Demos, links, and programs to download

  Presentations, figures and Notes


Instructor:     Dr. Jose Vanderlei Martins
Office Hours/Contact:                         

Physics Building – room 429     

Phone: 410-455 2764                                         


Lectures Time/Place:
Tu-Thu:  14:30-15:45 in PHYS201

Grading Method:

Final Exam (25%), Mid-Term Exam (25%), Project (25%), Homework (25%) 

Required Textbook:

G. E. Thomas and K. Stamnes, 1999: Radiative Transfer in the Atmosphere and Ocean, Cambridge University Press, 517pp.

Suggested Textbooks: (not required)

-R. M. Goody and Y. L. Yung, 1989: Atmospheric Radiation, Theoretical Basis, Oxford, 519pp.

- John R. Schott, 2009:                                 Fundamentals of Polarimetric Remote Sensing, Tutorial texts in Optical Engineering, Volume TT81, SPIE Press, Washington, USA, 241pp.


Additional Textbooks: (not required)

-G. W. Petty, 2004: A First Course in Atmospheric Radiation, Sundog Publishing, 446 pp.

-3D Radiative Transfer in Cloudy Atmospheres. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, New York, edited by: Marshak, A. and Davis, A., ©2005, 686, 2005.

-K. N. Liou, 2002: An Introduction to Atmospheric Radiation, 2nd edition, Academic Press, 583 pp.

Obs: A number of www-based aides, summary notes, etc. will be available but the students are always encouraged to take their own notes.


Course Syllabus


·  PHYS 721

(from Catalog)


Atmospheric Radiation [3 credits] [ATM Phys-Program]
This course introduces the student to formal radiative transfer theory, which is quickly simplified for application to Earth’s atmosphere. The physical processes, which contribute to absorption and scattering in Earth’s atmosphere, are examined. Topics include molecular absorption via vibration-rotation transitions and spectral line formation in homogeneous atmospheres. Rayleigh and Mie scattering theory are covered, as well as their application to radiative transfer in clouds and aerosol-laden atmospheres. The importance of radiative transfer to the heat balance of Earth and implications for weather and climate will be examined. If time permits, various parameterizations and approximation schemes for atmospheric radiative transfer will be developed.




PHYS602, PHYS604, PHYS605, PHYS607, PHYS621, PHYS622.

Course Description and Objectives:
The physical processes which contribute to absorption and scattering in the Earth's atmosphere will be explained with the ultimate goal to appreciate the importance of radiative transfer to the heat balance of the Earth and its implications for weather and climate. By the end of the course, students should be equipped with enough knowledge to not be intimidated by research projects that require radiative transfer calculations, derivation and interpretation of radiation budgets, analysis of atmospheric optical properties, and understanding of passive remote sensing algorithms physical principles and limitations. Finally, the course is designed to provide a solid background for those planning to take PHYS 722 (Remote Sensing).

The main topics covered by this course include (not necessarily in this order):

- Role of radiation in climate. Concept of extinction. Radiative quantities: optical path, extinction coefficients, intensity, flux.

- Classical viewpoint of light-matter interactions. Thermodynamic equilibrium. Planck’s law. Wien’s law. Stefan-Boltzmann law.

- Scattering by spherical particles. Rayleigh scattering. Mie scattering.

- Phase functions. Legendre expansion. d-scaling. Optical properties of clouds and aerosols.

- Publicly available RT tools. Class demonstrations.

- Development of RT equation with scattering and emission. Solution of RT equation with no scattering. Atmospheric heating and cooling rates. Atmospheric sounding.

- Solutions of the RT equation with scattering (1). Two-stream. d-Eddington.

- Solutions of the RT equation with scattering (2). Accurate methods (1D).

- 3D radiative transfer. Monte Carlo.

- Vibration-rotation spectra. Link to QM interpretation.

- Line shape. Broadening of spectral lines. Spectral absorption by the Earth’s atmospheric constituents.

- Transmission by single line. Band absorption. Band models.

- Broadband RT. Line-by-line. Transmission in homogeneous media. k-distribution method.

- Transmission in inhomogeneous media. Scaling approximations. Correlated k-distribution method.

- Cloud heating and cooling profiles.

- Role of radiation in climate revisited. Role of gases. Role of clouds. Role of aerosols. Forcings. Feedbacks. Models for climate studies. Recent observations.


Note: The emphasis on a given topic or the course content may vary according to specific interests of the class and links with special events on Atmospheric Radiation.



Phys 721 Calendar - Fall 2009


Sept. 1

First Day of Classes


Mid-Term Exam

Nov. 26-27

Thanksgiving Break


Invited Lecture

Dec. 1

Project Presentations

Dec. 14

Last Day of Classes

Dec. 16-22

Final Exams

Students are expected to be familiar with the Policies & Expectations of this course, and all UMBC regulations.