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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 45, Iss. 6 — Jun. 1, 1955
  • pp: 455–457

Infrared Emission Spectrum of the Atmosphere


JOSA, Vol. 45, Issue 6, pp. 455-457 (1955)

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A device for the convenient quantitative measurement of the thermal radiation from the atmosphere has been developed. In the instrument the emission spectrum of the earth’s atmosphere as observed at ground level is compared automatically with a spectrum approximating that of a blackbody at the boiling point of liquid nitrogen at atmospheric pressure. The most prominent features of the atmospheric spectrum between 4 µ and 15.5 µ, observed during daylight and darkness when the sky is clear, are due to emission by carbon dioxide, ozone, and water vapor; the intensity of the water vapor emission shows pronounced variations with atmospheric temperature and humidity. The spectrum of an overcast sky resembles that of a blackbody. By comparing the recorder traces of the atmospheric spectra with similar traces obtained with a blackbody source, it is possible to estimate the effective radiation temperature of various portions of the sky for various atmospheric conditions.

RAYMOND SLOAN, JOHN H. SHAW, and DUDLEY WILLIAMS, "Infrared Emission Spectrum of the Atmosphere," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 45, 455-457 (1955)

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  1. Compendium of Meteorology, Am. Met. Soc. (Boston, Massachusetts), 34–49 (1951).
  2. J. Strong, J. Frank. Inst. 232, 1 (1941); J. Opt. Soc. Am. 29, 520 (1939).
  3. A. Adel, Astrophys. J. 103, 19 (1946); Astrophys. J. 105, 406 (1947). Cent. Proc. Roy. Meteor. Soc. (London) p. 5 (1950).
  4. The term "effective radiation temperature" is used in a somewhat different sense by Adel (see reference 2).
  5. C. P. Butler, "On the Exchange of Radiant Energy Between the Earth and Sky," NRL Report 3984, June 11, 1952.
  6. For a liquid nitrogen blackbody, Rλ is 0.3 percent Rλ for a 0°C blackbody at 15 microns and still less at shorter wavelengths.
  7. Benedict, Claassen, and Shaw, J. Research Natl. Bur. Standards 49, 91–132 (1952).
  8. Shaw, Oxholm, and Claassen, Astrophys. J. 116, 554 (1952).

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