A method for quantitatively comparing the seasonal cycles of two global data sets is presented. The seasonal cycles of absorbed solar radiation (ASR) and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR) have been computed from an eight-year data set from the Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) scanning radiometers and from a model data set produced by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Global Modeling and Assimilation Office. To compare the seasonal cycles from these two data sets, principal component (PC) analysis is used, where the PCs express the time variations and the corresponding empirical orthogonal functions (EOFs) describe the geographic variations. Ocean has a long thermal response time compared to land, so land and ocean are separated for the analysis. The root-mean square values for the seasonal cycles of ASR and OLR are extremely close for the two data sets. The first three PCs are quite close, showing that the time responses and magnitudes over the globe are very similar. The agreement between the two sets of PCs is quantified by computing the matrix of inner products of the two sets. For ASR over land, the first PCs of CERES and the model agree to better than 99.9%. The EOF maps are similar for most of the globe, but differ in a few places, and the agreement of the EOF maps is likewise quantified. Maps of differences between the annual cycles show regions of agreement and disagreement.