Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is monitored using ultraviolet (UV) absorption spectroscopy at numerous volcanoes around the world due to its importance as a measure of volcanic activity and a tracer for other gaseous species. Recent studies have shown that failure to take realistic radiative transfer into account during the spectral retrieval of the collected data often leads to large errors in the calculated emission rates. Here, the framework for a new evaluation method which couples a radiative transfer model to the spectral retrieval is described. In it, absorption spectra are simulated, and atmospheric parameters are iteratively updated in the model until a best match to the measurement data is achieved. The evaluation algorithm is applied to two example Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) measurements conducted at Kilauea volcano (Hawaii). The resulting emission rates were 20 and 90% higher than those obtained with a conventional DOAS retrieval performed between 305 and 315 nm, respectively, depending on the different SO2 and aerosol loads present in the volcanic plume. The internal consistency of the method was validated by measuring and modeling SO2 absorption features in a separate wavelength region around 375 nm and comparing the results. Although additional information about the measurement geometry and atmospheric conditions is needed in addition to the acquired spectral data, this method for the first time provides a means of taking realistic three-dimensional radiative transfer into account when analyzing UV-spectral absorption measurements of volcanic SO2 plumes.