Influence of climate shifts on decadal variations of surface solar radiation in Alaska



[1] From past studies it has been known that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) shifted toward a positive mode in 1976 and a new climate regime occurred that produced a warming of the mean annual and seasonal temperatures and associated increases in cloud cover and precipitation in the North Pacific including Alaska. In this study, this climate shift is examined with regard to the variations in surface solar radiation before and after 1976 during the period 1961–2005. The results show greatest changes occurring in the southeast region in winter with a significant rise of 1.67% yr−1 during 1961–1975 before the shift and a nonsignificant decline of −1.07% yr−1 during 1977–1991 after the shift. In addition to the variations in solar radiation that occurred after 1976, the PDO and the solar radiation time series show common changes around 1989 and 1998. Thus, these two variables are compared to assess the strength of their relationship. The results show a good to moderate correlation with a maximum found in winter in Big Delta (interior region). The Pacific North American (PNA) circulation pattern is also strongly correlated with the solar radiation, with a maximum in winter in Anchorage (south-central region). In addition, a close relationship is found between cloud cover and solar radiation, particularly in the south-central and southwest regions. These results suggest that circulation patterns and associated cloud cover changes may play a large role, especially during wintertime, in the variations in the surface solar radiation in these regions of Alaska.