Modeling Solar Radiation at the Earth’s Surface

Thermal Offsets

Climate research studies of solar radiation instrumentation, such as those made by the Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) participants, have characterized thermal offsets in thermopile pyranometers with all-black sensors measuring dif­fuse or global radiation (see http://www. gewex. org/bsrn. html). Thermal offsets pro­duce negative data at night, and lower clear-sky diffuse or global irradiances during daytime.

This systematic negative bias explains in great part the discrepancy found be­tween measurements and predictions from sophisticated radiative transfer models (e. g., Arking 1996; Philipona 2002). Similarly, thermal offsets explain why dif­fuse irradiance under very clean conditions has been reported lower than what pure Rayleigh-scattering theory (with no additional atmospheric constituents) predicts (Kato 1999; Cess et al. 2000). Other investigations confirmed the importance of thermal offsets, and offered correction methods (e. g., Dutton et al. 2001) as well as improved techniques for optimal pyranometry (Michalsky et al. 1999), which are summarized in Sect. 7. Thermal offsets produce absolute errors of typically -5 to -20Wm-2 in clear-sky diffuse or global irradiance with all-black ther­mopile pyranometers, and are dependent on instrument installation (e. g., use of ventilators or heaters, etc.), design, deployment site, and atmospheric conditions. Current calibration methods cannot compensate directly for these errors.

For black-and-white sensors, the reference and absorbing thermopile junctions are in a similar thermal environment. These radiometers have lower (typically ±0-2Wm~2) offsets and normally produce more accurate diffuse sky measure­ments than all-black sensors without appropriate post-measurement corrections, or special considerations in their construction, such as compensating thermopiles.

Other Spectral Effects

Diffuse sky radiation has little energy in the shortwave near-infrared region 1000-2800 nm, while the direct beam has significant energy in that region. There­fore, nothing affecting the direct beam total irradiance between 1000 and 2800 nm, such as atmospheric watervapor, affects a shaded pyranometer signal. Consequently, for several different water vapor concentrations, and direct normal irradiances, the same shaded signal is possible from the pyranometer. By varying total precipitable water vapor from 0.5 to 3.5 cm, this “spectral mismatch” effect can be shown to result in differences of about 0.5% in Rs (Myers et al. 2004).

Modeling Solar Radiation at the Earth’s Surface

Quality Assessment Based Upon Comparison with Models

Many models based on the physics of radiation transfer through the clear atmo­sphere have been developed (Lacis and Hansen 1974; Atwater and Ball 1978; Hoyt 1978; Bird and Hulstrom 1981a, …

Solar Horizontal Diffuse and Beam Irradiation on Clear Days

There exist a number of models to determine the solar horizontal diffuse irradia­tion on a clear day (Kondratyev 1969) but they are complex and have very stringent conditions. Similarly, there …


Reading the twenty chapters of this book caused me mixed reactions, though all were positive. My responses were shaped by several factors. Although I have main­tained a “watching brief’ on …

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