The most recent theoretical studies have shown that three-dimensional (3-D) radiation effects play an important role in the optical remote sensing of atmospheric aerosol and land surface reflectance. These effects may contribute notably to the error budget of retrievals in a broad range of sensor resolutions, introducing systematic biases in the land surface albedo data sets that emerge from the existing global observation systems. At the same time, 3-D effects are either inadequately addressed or completely ignored in data processing algorithms. Thus there is a need for further development of the radiative transfer theory that can rigorously treat both 3-D and surface anisotropy effects and yet be flexible enough to permit the development of fast forward and inversion algorithms. We describe a new theoretical solution to the 3-D radiative transfer problem with an arbitrary nonhomogeneous non-Lambertian surface. This solution is based on an exact semianalytical solution derived in operator form by the Green’s function method. The numerical implementation is based on several parameterizations that accelerate the solution dramatically while keeping its accuracy within several percent under most general conditions.
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