A Model for Inactivation of Microbes Suspended in the Atmosphere by Solar Ultraviolet Radiation


Corresponding author email: avishai.bendavid@us.army.mil (Avishai Ben-David)


Solar ultraviolet (UV) light within 280–320 nm (UVB) is the primary cause for virus inactivation in the atmosphere. Only the effect of the direct component has been previously evaluated. We developed a simple regression model to estimate the inactivation of a virus due to direct (unscattered), diffuse (scattered) and total (direct + diffuse) components of solar UV (daily integrated irradiances). The model predicts the maximum number of radiation-days a virus will survive at a given altitude above the ground in rural and urban environments under clear skies. We explored the effect of several environmental variables: visibility, altitude and ground reflectivity. We found that the effect of diffuse radiation on virus inactivation was larger than the direct component. The diffuse irradiance increased with ground albedo (mainly due to reflection of the direct attenuated solar off the ground) and decreased with increased visibility (proportional to aerosol loading in the atmosphere). The diffuse component increased with altitude, but the ratio of diffuse to the total decreased with increased altitude, highlighting the importance of the diffuse component of UV near the ground. Our model may help public health studies in predicting and understanding the effect of environmental parameters on the survival of germs.