The maturing of ground-based solar shortwave spectral measurements at the U.S. DOE ARM User Facility facilitates progress in climate predictability by constraining cloud and aerosol radiative effects in complex environments.
Industry advances have greatly reduced the cost and size of ground-based shortwave (SW) sensors for the ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared spectral ranges that make up the solar spectrum, while simultaneously increasing their ruggedness, reliability and calibration accuracy needed for outdoor operation. These sensors and collocated meteorological equipment are an important part of the US Department of Energy (DOE) Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) User Facility, which has supported parallel integrated measurements of atmospheric and surface properties for more than two decades at fixed and mobile sites around the world. The versatile capability of these ground-based measurements includes: (1) rich spectral information required for retrieving cloud and aerosol microphysical properties, such as cloud phase, cloud particle size, and aerosol size distributions, and (2) high temporal resolution needed for capturing fast evolution of cloud microphysical properties in response to rapid changes in meteorological conditions. Here we describe examples of how ARM’s spectral radiation measurements are being used to improve understanding of the complex processes governing microphysical, optical, and radiative properties of clouds and aerosol.