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Photosynthetically Active Sunlight at High Southern Latitudes


  • Posted on the website on 2 February 2005

*To whom correspondence should be addressed: Department of the Geophysical Sciences, The University of Chicago, 5734 South Ellis Avenue, Chicago, II. 60637-1434, Fax:773-702-9505; e-mail:


A network of scanning spectroradiometers has acquired a multiyear database of visible solar irradiance, covering wavelengths from 400 to 600 nm, at four sites in the high-latitude Southern Hemisphere, from 55°S to 90°S. Monthly irradiations computed from the hourly measurements reveal the character of the seasonal cycle and illustrate the role of cloudiness as functions of latitude. Near summer solstice, the combined influences of solar elevation and the duration of daylight would produce a monthly irradiation with little latitude dependence under clear skies. However, the attenuation associated with local cloudiness varies geographically, with the greatest effect at the most morthern locations, Ushuaia, Argentina and Palmer Station on the Antartic Peninusula. Near summer solstice, the South Pole experiences the largest monthly irradiation of the sites studied, where relatively clear skies contribute to this result. Scaling factors derived from radiative-transfer calculations combined with the measured 400–600 nm irradiances allow estiamting irradiances integrated over the wavelength band 400–700 nm. This produces a climatology of photosynthetically active radiation for each month of the year at each site.