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Sundar A. Christopher, Xiang Li, Ronald M. Welch, Jeffrey S. Reid, Peter V. Hobbs, Thomas F. Eck, and Brent Holben


Using in situ measurements of aerosol optical properties and ground-based measurements of aerosol optical thickness (τ s) during the Smoke, Clouds and Radiation—Brazil (SCAR-B) experiment, a four-stream broadband radiative transfer model is used to estimate the downward shortwave irradiance (DSWI) and top-of-atmosphere (TOA) shortwave aerosol radiative forcing (SWARF) in cloud-free regions dominated by smoke from biomass burning in Brazil. The calculated DSWI values are compared with broadband pyranometer measurements made at the surface. The results show that, for two days when near-coincident measurements of single-scattering albedo ω 0 and τ s are available, the root-mean-square errors between the measured and calculated DSWI for daytime data are within 30 W m−2. For five days during SCAR-B, however, when assumptions about ω 0 have to be made and also when τ s was significantly higher, the differences can be as large as 100 W m−2. At TOA, the SWARF per unit optical thickness ranges from −20 to −60 W m−2 over four major ecosystems in South America. The results show that τ s and ω 0 are the two most important parameters that affect DSWI calculations. For SWARF values, surface albedos also play an important role. It is shown that ω 0 must be known within 0.05 and τ s at 0.55 μm must be known to within 0.1 to estimate DSWI to within 20 W m−2. The methodology described in this paper could serve as a potential strategy for determining DSWI values in the presence of aerosols. The wavelength dependence of τ s and ω 0 over the entire shortwave spectrum is needed to improve radiative transfer calculations. If global retrievals of DSWI and SWARF from satellite measurements are to be performed in the presence of biomass-burning aerosols on a routine basis, a concerted effort should be made to develop methodologies for estimating ω 0 and τ s from satellite and ground-based measurements.

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