Predicting atmospheric optical properties for radiative transfer computations using neural networks

Menno A. Veerman*, Robert Pincus, Robin Stoffer, Caspar M. Van Leeuwen, Damian Podareanu, Chiel C. Van Heerwaarden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The radiative transfer equations are well known, but radiation parametrizations in atmospheric models are computationally expensive. A promising tool for accelerating parametrizations is the use of machine learning techniques. In this study, we develop a machine learning-based parametrization for the gaseous optical properties by training neural networks to emulate a modern radiation parametrization (RRTMGP). To minimize computa- tional costs, we reduce the range of atmospheric conditions for which the neural networks are applicable and use machine-specific optimized BLAS functions to accelerate matrix computations. To generate training data, we use a set of randomly perturbed atmospheric profiles and calculate optical properties using RRTMGP. Predicted optical properties are highly accurate and the resulting radiative fluxes have average errors within 0.5 W m -2 compared to RRTMGP. Our neural network-based gas optics parametrization is up to four times faster than RRTMGP, depending on the size of the neural networks. We further test the trade-off between speed and accuracy by training neural networks for the narrow range of atmospheric conditions of a single large-eddy simulation, so smaller and therefore faster networks can achieve a desired accuracy. We conclude that our machine learning-based parametrization can speed-up radiative transfer computations while retaining high accuracy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20200095
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2194
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021


  • atmosphere
  • neural networks
  • optical properties
  • radiative transfer


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