Time series of observed microwave brightness temperatures at Dome C, East Antarctic plateau, were modeled over 27 months with a multilayer microwave emission model based on dense-medium radiative transfer theory. The modeled time series of brightness temperature at 18.7 and 36.5 GHz were compared with Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer–EOS observations. The model uses in situ high-resolution vertical profiles of temperature, snow density and grain size. The snow grain-size profile was derived from near-infrared (NIR) reflectance photography of a snow pit wall in the range 850–1100 nm. To establish the snow grain-size profile, from the NIR reflectance and the specific surface area of snow, two empirical relationships and a theoretical relationship were considered. In all cases, the modeled brightness temperatures were overestimated, and the grain-size profile had to be scaled to increase the scattering by snow grains. Using a scaling factor and a constant snow grain size below 3 m depth (i.e. below the image-derived snow pit grain-size profile), brightness temperatures were explained with a root-mean-square error close to 1 K. Most of this error is due to an overestimation of the predicted brightness temperature in summer at 36.5 GHz.