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Proceedings Paper

Estimating the UV diffuse fraction of solar radiation under partly cloudy skies
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Paper Abstract

A major limitation in predicting the ultraviolet-B (UVB) irradiance on humans, plant leaves and flowers and aquatic organisms is the difficulty in determining the UVB under partly cloudy sky conditions. This study analyzes the UV diffuse fractions under partly cloudy and clear conditions for nine locations in the USA over a period of 1997 through 1999. Radiation measurements, made as part of the United States Department of Agriculture UVB Monitoring Program using multi-filter rotating shadow band radiometers, were paired with cloud cover and other atmospheric measurements made with National Weather Service Automated Surface Observation Systems within 30 km of the radiation measurement location to evaluate the accuracy of using a relatively simple model to describe the diffuse fraction of UV radiation under partly-cloudy skies. The diffuse fraction was modeled as the summation of clear and overcast sky diffuse fractions, weighted by the probability of the sun's direct beam being obstructed or not for a given cloud cover fraction. For the nine locations evaluated, the model had a mean bias error (MBE) of 0.0037 and a root mean squared error (RMSE) of 0.0361. Simplifying the model by assuming a diffuse fraction of 1 for the overcast sky resulted in a slightly higher error (MBE error of -0.0045 and an RMSE of 0.0387). Model errors were greatest for low solar zenith angles and high cloud fractions. The greatest error, associated with overcast sky conditions, appeared to be a result of scattering off the clouds during the period of time where the sun's beam was unobstructed. Error analysis also showed that the diffuse fraction of partly cloudy skies when the sun's beam was not obstructed is well approximated by the clear sky condition to within approximately 0.1, supporting the use of aerosol optical thickness estimates by Langley plot under partly cloudy skies.

Paper Details

Date Published: 17 January 2002
PDF: 9 pages
Proc. SPIE 4482, Ultraviolet Ground- and Space-based Measurements, Models, and Effects, (17 January 2002); doi: 10.1117/12.452914
Show Author Affiliations
Richard H. Grant, Purdue Univ. (United States)
Wei Gao, Colorado State Univ./U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 4482:
Ultraviolet Ground- and Space-based Measurements, Models, and Effects
James R. Slusser; Jay R. Herman; Wei Gao, Editor(s)

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