We investigated the single scattering optical properties of snow for different ice particle shapes and degrees of microscopic scale roughness. These optical properties were implemented and tested in a coupled atmosphere-snow radiative transfer model. The modeled surface spectral albedo and radiance distribution were compared with surface measurements. The results show that the reflected radiance and irradiance over snow are sensitive to the snow grain size and its vertical profile. When inhomogeneity of the particle size distribution in the vertical is taken into account, the measured spectral albedo can be matched, regardless of the particle shapes. But this is not true for the modeled radiance distribution, which depends a lot on the particle shape. The usual "equivalent spheres" assumption significantly overestimates forward reflected radiances, and underestimates backscattering radiances, around the principal plane. On average, the aggregate shape assumption has the best agreement with the measured radiances to a mean bias within 2%. The snow optical properties with the aggregate assumption were applied to the retrieval of snow grain size over the Antarctic plateau. The retrieved grain sizes of the top layer showed similar and large seasonal variation in all years, but only small year to year variation. Using the retrieved snow grain sizes, the modeled spectral and broadband radiances showed good agreements with MODIS and CERES measurements over the Antarctic plateau. Except for the MODIS 2.13 μm channel, the mean relative model-observation differences are within few percent. The modeled MODIS radiances using measured surface reflectance at Dome C also showed good agreement in visible channels, where radiation is not sensitive to snow grain size and the measured surface bidirectional reflectance is applicable over the Antarctic plateau. But modeled radiances using local, surface-measured reflectance in the near infrared yielded large errors because of the high sensitivity to the snow grain size, which varies spatially and temporally. The CERES broadband shortwave radiance is moderately sensitive to the snow grain size, comparable to the MODIS 0.86 μm channel. The variation of broadband snow reflectance due to the seasonal variation in snow grain size is about 5% in a year over the Antarctic plateau. CERES broadband radiances simulated with grain sizes retrieved using MODIS are about 2% larger than those observed. © 2008 Elsevier Inc.
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