Limitations of ground-based solar irradiance estimates due to atmospheric variations

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Abstract

[1] The uncertainty in ground-based estimates of solar irradiance is quantitatively related to the temporal variability of the atmosphere's optical thickness. The upper and lower bounds of the accuracy of estimates using the Langley plot technique are proportional to the standard deviation of aerosol optical thickness (approximately ±13σ(δτ)). The estimates of spectral solar irradiance in two Cimel Sun photometer channels at 340 and 380 nm from the Mauna Loa site of the Aerosol Robotic Network are compared with satellite observations from the Solar Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE) on the Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite for almost 2 years of data. The true solar variations related to the 27-day solar rotation cycle observed from SOLSTICE are ∼0.15% at the two Sun photometer channels. The variability in ground-based estimates is statistically 1 order of magnitude larger. Even though ∼30% of these estimates from all Level 2.0 Cimel data fall within the 0.4–0.5% variation level, ground-based estimates are not able to capture the 27-day solar variation observed from SOLSTICE.