A quick answer.

Is there a smarter way?

Not inside ARTS itself.

And, for the way I outlined, what is the currently recommended way to get out 
tangent altitude and opacity along the los?

Note that you don't need to make a Tb calculation, you can calculate the transmission directly by iyTransmissionStandard. A bit quicker and you can include particles.

The method TangentPointExtract extracts the tangent point data. First element of the vector returned is the tangent altitude (or is it still radius in v2.2?).


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