• Open Access

Solar and thermal radiation profiles and radiative forcing measured through the atmosphere



[1] Solar shortwave and thermal longwave radiation at the Earth's surface and at the top of the atmosphere is commonly measured at surface stations, from airplanes and from satellites. Here we show radiative flux profiles measured with radiosondes ascending from the Earth's surface to 35 km into the stratosphere. During two-hour flights solar shortwave and thermal longwave radiation are measured both downward and upward with four individual sensors. Daytime solar and thermal radiation is compared to nighttime measurements and 24-hour average radiation budget profiles are shown through the atmosphere. However, of even greater importance with regard to climate change are measured upward and downward longwave greenhouse radiation profiles. Their changes with temperature and water vapor enable direct measurement of radiative forcing through the atmosphere. Measurements during two cloud-free nights with different temperature and different water vapor amount, show an almost equal but opposite net longwave radiation change, or water vapor greenhouse forcing, downwards to the surface and upward into space. Radiative flux profiles clearly illustrate the Earth's atmospheric greenhouse effect, and allow important investigations of clouds and other atmospheric constituents and their effects on shortwave reflection, as well as longwave emission towards the surface and into space.