Sampling uncertainties in surface radiation budget calculations in RADAGAST


  • 14 October 2008


[1] In the Radiative Atmospheric Divergence Using ARM Mobile Facility GERB and AMMA Stations (RADAGAST) project we calculate the divergence of radiative flux across the atmosphere by comparing fluxes measured at each end of an atmospheric column above Niamey, in the African Sahel region. The combination of broadband flux measurements from geostationary orbit and the deployment for over 12 months of a comprehensive suite of active and passive instrumentation at the surface eliminates a number of sampling issues that could otherwise affect divergence calculations of this sort. However, one sampling issue that challenges the project is the fact that the surface flux data are essentially measurements made at a point, while the top-of-atmosphere values are taken over a solid angle that corresponds to an area at the surface of some 2500 km2. Variability of cloud cover and aerosol loading in the atmosphere mean that the downwelling fluxes, even when averaged over a day, will not be an exact match to the area-averaged value over that larger area, although we might expect that it is an unbiased estimate thereof. The heterogeneity of the surface, for example, fixed variations in albedo, further means that there is a likely systematic difference in the corresponding upwelling fluxes. In this paper we characterize and quantify this spatial sampling problem. We bound the root-mean-square error in the downwelling fluxes by exploiting a second set of surface flux measurements from a site that was run in parallel with the main deployment. The differences in the two sets of fluxes lead us to an upper bound to the sampling uncertainty, and their correlation leads to another which is probably optimistic as it requires certain other conditions to be met. For the upwelling fluxes we use data products from a number of satellite instruments to characterize the relevant heterogeneities and so estimate the systematic effects that arise from the flux measurements having to be taken at a single point. The sampling uncertainties vary with the season, being higher during the monsoon period. We find that the sampling errors for the daily average flux are small for the shortwave irradiance, generally less than 5 W m−2, under relatively clear skies, but these increase to about 10 W m−2 during the monsoon. For the upwelling fluxes, again taking daily averages, systematic errors are of order 10 W m−2 as a result of albedo variability. The uncertainty on the longwave component of the surface radiation budget is smaller than that on the shortwave component, in all conditions, but a bias of 4 W m−2 is calculated to exist in the surface leaving longwave flux.