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An Upper Threshold of Enhanced Global Shortwave Irradiance in the Troposphere Derived from Field Measurements in Tropical Mountains

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  • 1 Department of Geography, Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
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Abstract

Extraordinarily high values of global irradiance (up to 1832 W m−2) incident upon a horizontal surface were observed during a 4-yr meteorological field campaign in the southern Ecuadorian Andes Mountains (4°S). The unexpected magnitude gave rise to a thorough revision of the instrumentation and an assessment of the radiation database. Infrastructure at the sites and software were critically examined, and the sensor and datalogger manufacturers were contacted. The observed enhanced irradiance was quantified with a simple clear-sky model for global radiation. The efforts showed that atmospheric conditions and not artifacts had produced the high values. Cloud radiative effects could be singled out as the exclusive source of the “superirradiance.” Mean (bihourly) maximum enhancement was 119.6% of the potential (clear sky) irradiance; absolute maximum enhancement occasionally reached to over 170%. Thereby, under ideal conditions, the upper threshold of global irradiance is apparently ∼200% of the potential (clear sky) direct radiation [i.e., at the point of observation, downwelling diffuse cloud radiation can (almost) equal the magnitude of its apparent “source”]. The observations were made between altitudes of 1500 and 3400 m MSL in different climates ranging from perhumid to semiarid (i.e., in very cloudy climates and in less cloudy climates). The conditions that were found to explain the magnitude of the extremely enhanced irradiance are not confined to tropical or mountainous environments only, but rather they can occur at any spot in the troposphere where clouds exist. Therefore, the findings appear to be of general validity.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Paul Emck, Department of Geography, Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nürnberg 72119, Germany. Email: pemck@gmx.net

Abstract

Extraordinarily high values of global irradiance (up to 1832 W m−2) incident upon a horizontal surface were observed during a 4-yr meteorological field campaign in the southern Ecuadorian Andes Mountains (4°S). The unexpected magnitude gave rise to a thorough revision of the instrumentation and an assessment of the radiation database. Infrastructure at the sites and software were critically examined, and the sensor and datalogger manufacturers were contacted. The observed enhanced irradiance was quantified with a simple clear-sky model for global radiation. The efforts showed that atmospheric conditions and not artifacts had produced the high values. Cloud radiative effects could be singled out as the exclusive source of the “superirradiance.” Mean (bihourly) maximum enhancement was 119.6% of the potential (clear sky) irradiance; absolute maximum enhancement occasionally reached to over 170%. Thereby, under ideal conditions, the upper threshold of global irradiance is apparently ∼200% of the potential (clear sky) direct radiation [i.e., at the point of observation, downwelling diffuse cloud radiation can (almost) equal the magnitude of its apparent “source”]. The observations were made between altitudes of 1500 and 3400 m MSL in different climates ranging from perhumid to semiarid (i.e., in very cloudy climates and in less cloudy climates). The conditions that were found to explain the magnitude of the extremely enhanced irradiance are not confined to tropical or mountainous environments only, but rather they can occur at any spot in the troposphere where clouds exist. Therefore, the findings appear to be of general validity.

Corresponding author address: Dr. Paul Emck, Department of Geography, Friedrich-Alexander-University, Erlangen-Nürnberg 72119, Germany. Email: pemck@gmx.net

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