Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Analyzing the contribution of aerosols to an observed increase in direct normal irradiance in Oregon



[1] Annual average total irradiance increases by 1–2% per decade at three monitoring stations in Oregon over the period from 1980 to 2007. Direct normal irradiance measurements increase by 5% per decade over the same time period. The measurements show no sign of a dimming before 1990. The impact of high concentrations of stratospheric aerosols following the volcanic eruptions of El Chichón and Mount Pinatubo are clearly seen in the measurements. Removing these years from the annual average all-sky time series reduces the trends in both total and direct normal irradiance. Clear-sky periods from this long direct normal time series are used in conjunction with radiative transfer calculations to test whether part of the increase could be caused by anthropogenic aerosols. All three sites show relatively low clear-sky measurements before the eruption of El Chichón in 1982, suggesting higher aerosol loads during this period. After removing the periods most strongly impacted by volcanic eruptions, two of the sites show statistically significant increases in clear-sky direct normal irradiance from 1987 to 2007. Radiative transfer calculations of the impact of volcanic aerosols and tropospheric water vapor indicate that only about 20% of that clear-sky increase between background aerosol periods before and after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo can be explained by these two factors. Thus a statistically significant clear-sky trend remains between 1987 and 2007 that is consistent with the hypothesis that at least some of the increase in surface irradiance could be caused by a reduction of anthropogenic aerosols.