Mesoscale Simulations of Australian Direct Normal Irradiance, Featuring an Extreme Dust Event

S. K. Mukkavilli School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, University of South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, and CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Canberra, Australia

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A. A. Prasad Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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R. A. Taylor School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, and School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, University of South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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A. Troccoli CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, Canberra, Australia, and School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, and World Energy and Meteorology Council, Norwich, United Kingdom

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M. J. Kay School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, University of South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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Abstract

Direct normal irradiance (DNI) is the main input for concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies—an important component in future energy scenarios. DNI forecast accuracy is sensitive to radiative transfer schemes (RTSs) and microphysics in numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Additionally, NWP models have large regional aerosol uncertainties. Dust aerosols can significantly attenuate DNI in extreme cases, with marked consequences for applications such as CSP. To date, studies have not compared the skill of different physical parameterization schemes for predicting hourly DNI under varying aerosol conditions over Australia. The authors address this gap by aiming to provide the first Weather and Forecasting (WRF) Model DNI benchmarks for Australia as baselines for assessing future aerosol-assimilated models. Annual and day-ahead simulations against ground measurements at selected sites focusing on an extreme dust event are run. Model biases are assessed for five shortwave RTSs at 30- and 10-km grid resolutions, along with the Thompson aerosol-aware scheme in three different microphysics configurations: no aerosols, fixed optical properties, and monthly climatologies. From the annual simulation, the best schemes were the Rapid Radiative Transfer Model for global climate models (RRTMG), followed by the new Goddard and Dudhia schemes, despite the relative simplicity of the latter. These top three RTSs all had 1.4–70.8 W m−2 lower mean absolute error than persistence. RRTMG with monthly aerosol climatologies was the best combination. The extreme dust event had large DNI mean bias overpredictions (up to 4.6 times), compared to background aerosol results. Dust storm–aware DNI forecasts could benefit from RRTMG with high-resolution aerosol inputs.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Surya Karthik Mukkavilli, karthik.mukkavilli@student.unsw.edu.au

Abstract

Direct normal irradiance (DNI) is the main input for concentrating solar power (CSP) technologies—an important component in future energy scenarios. DNI forecast accuracy is sensitive to radiative transfer schemes (RTSs) and microphysics in numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. Additionally, NWP models have large regional aerosol uncertainties. Dust aerosols can significantly attenuate DNI in extreme cases, with marked consequences for applications such as CSP. To date, studies have not compared the skill of different physical parameterization schemes for predicting hourly DNI under varying aerosol conditions over Australia. The authors address this gap by aiming to provide the first Weather and Forecasting (WRF) Model DNI benchmarks for Australia as baselines for assessing future aerosol-assimilated models. Annual and day-ahead simulations against ground measurements at selected sites focusing on an extreme dust event are run. Model biases are assessed for five shortwave RTSs at 30- and 10-km grid resolutions, along with the Thompson aerosol-aware scheme in three different microphysics configurations: no aerosols, fixed optical properties, and monthly climatologies. From the annual simulation, the best schemes were the Rapid Radiative Transfer Model for global climate models (RRTMG), followed by the new Goddard and Dudhia schemes, despite the relative simplicity of the latter. These top three RTSs all had 1.4–70.8 W m−2 lower mean absolute error than persistence. RRTMG with monthly aerosol climatologies was the best combination. The extreme dust event had large DNI mean bias overpredictions (up to 4.6 times), compared to background aerosol results. Dust storm–aware DNI forecasts could benefit from RRTMG with high-resolution aerosol inputs.

© 2018 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Surya Karthik Mukkavilli, karthik.mukkavilli@student.unsw.edu.au
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