The satellite level radiance is affected by the presence of the atmosphere between the sensor and the target. The ozone and water vapor absorption bands affect the signal recorded by the AVHRR visible and near infrared channels respectively. The Rayleigh scattering mainly affects the visible channel and is more pronounced when dealing with small sun elevations and large view angles. The aerosol scattering affects both channels and is certainly the most challenging term for atmospheric correction because of the spatial and temporal variability of both the type and amount of particles in the atmosphere. This paper presents the equation of the satellite signal, the scheme to retrieve atmospheric properties and corrections applied to AVHRR observations. The operational process uses TOMS data and a digital elevation model to correct for ozone absorption and rayleigh scattering. The water vapor content is evaluated using the split-window technique that is validated over ocean using 1988 SSM/I data. The aerosol amount retrieval over Ocean is achieved in channels 1 and 2 and compared to sun photometer observations to check consistency of the radiative transfer model and the sensor calibration. Over land, the method developed uses reflectance at 3.75 microns to deduce target reflectance in channel 1 and retrieve aerosol optical thickness that can be extrapolated in channel 2. The method to invert the reflectance at 3.75 microns is based on MODTRAN simulations and is validated by comparison to measurements performed during FIFE 87. Finally, aerosol optical thickness retrieved over Brazil and Eastern United States is compared to sun photometer measurements.