Quantifying aerosol direct effects from broadband irradiance and spectral aerosol optical depth observations



We outline a methodology using broadband and spectral irradiances to quantify aerosol direct effects on the surface diffuse shortwave (SW) irradiance. Best Estimate Flux data span a 13 year timeframe at the Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program's Southern Great Plains (SGP) site. Screened clear-sky irradiances and aerosol optical depth (AOD), for solar zenith angles ≤ 65°, are used to estimate clear-sky diffuse irradiances. We validate against detected clear-sky observations from SGP's Basic Radiation System (BRS). BRS diffuse irradiances were in accordance with estimates, producing a root-mean-square error and mean bias errors of 4.0 W/m2 and −1.4 W/m2, respectively. Absolute differences show 99% of estimates within ±10 W/m2 (10%) of the mean BRS observations. Clear-sky diffuse estimates are used to derive quantitative estimates of aerosol radiative effects, represented as the aerosol diffuse irradiance (ADI). ADI is the contribution of diffuse SW to global SW, attributable to scattering of atmospheric transmission by natural plus anthropogenic aerosols. Estimated slope for the ADI as a function of AOD indicates an increase of ~22 W/m2 in diffuse SW for every 0.1 increase in AOD. Such significant increases in the diffuse fraction could possibly increase photosynthesis. Annual mean ADI is 28.2 W/m2, and heavy aerosol loading at SGP provides up to a maximum increase of 120 W/m2 in diffuse SW over background conditions. With regard to seasonal variation, the mean diffuse forcings are 17.2, 33.3, 39.0, and 23.6 W/m2 for winter, spring, summer, and fall, respectively.