Archive for the ‘Solar’ Category

Downwelling Infra-Red Radiation and Temperature: Part 2

February 7, 2020

In Part 1 I showed that:

  • Downwelling infra-red radiation (so called “back radiation”) is real and measurable including at night.
  • It is greatly increased by cloud and humidity,
  • It results from daytime heating of the ground, which then loses heat by conduction, convection, evaporation, and radiation, into the atmosphere where the IR is repeatedly absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by greenhouse gases (including water vapour).
  • A warmer atmosphere from whatever cause, natural or enhanced, will result in greater downwelling IR.

In this post I will look at the relationship between downwelling IR and temperatures at five Australian locations during 2018 (the last year for which complete irradiance data is available.)  Those locations are Alice Springs, Darwin, Rockhampton, Melbourne, and Cape Grim, and are shown on this map.

Fig.1:  Australian stations with solar exposure data

Cape Grim, set on a clifftop above the Southern Ocean, is most exposed to marine influences.  Melbourne, Rockhampton, and Darwin are surrounded by land but are subject to marine influence at times when the wind blows from the ocean.  Alice Springs has a desert climate and the ocean is thousands of kilometres away.  Most examples in this post will come from the Alice.

The Relationship Between Maxima and Minima:

Consider this plot of temperature at Walgett (NSW):

Fig. 2:  Latest weather graph for Walgett 27 – 31 January 2018

During a fine clear day the sun heats the ground which by conduction and convection raises the near-surface air temperature.  The hot ground emits upwelling IR, some of which greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorb and re-emit in all directions, including towards the earth.  This is downwelling IR (DWIR), which adds to the solar radiation during the day, and slows the loss of heat at night.  The air temperature, and DWIR, peaks usually in the mid to late afternoon.  As the ground cools slowly throughout the evening and night hours, IR continues to be exchanged upwards and downwards, with enough being lost to space for ground and air temperatures to cool to the minimum.  This is usually reached, in fine clear conditions, sometime after sunrise.  And that is usually the time when DWIR also reaches minimum values.

Before I look at the relationship between DWIR and minima, let’s look at plots of maxima and minima.

Fig, 3:  Maxima and Minima at Alice Springs during 2018:

Note that usually (but not always!) peaks in maxima are matched by peaks in minima.  Here’s a closer look at the period from 6 May to 20 July, with minima scaled up by 19 degrees:

Fig. 4:  Maxima and Scaled Minima, 6 May – 20 July 2018

Note that maxima highs and lows precede those of minima by one day NEARLY ALWAYS.  (Sometimes they occur together, and sometimes maxima precedes minima by two days.)  The minimum temperature reflects the previous day’s maximum.  Why?  Due to DWIR, the ground cools slowly.  A hot day generates lots of DWIR, which keeps the ground (and air temperature) warmer next morning.  A cool day means less DWIR available next morning.  However, clouds lower maxima by reflecting sunlight but increase DWIR to keep nights and minima warmer, as we shall see later. The pattern seen above is also seen at Cape Grim, Melbourne, and Rockhampton, but not in Darwin where it is not so clear at all.

The Relationship Between Downwelling IR and Minima:

I used solar irradiance data to find daily (to 9.00 a.m.) minimum DWIR values for 2018 at Alice Springs, Darwin, Rockhampton, Melbourne, and Cape Grim, for comparison with daily temperature minima. 

Fig. 5:  Daily minima for 2018 at all stations

Fig. 6:  Daily minimum DWIR for 2018 at all stations

At all sites, as daily minimum IR increases, daily minimum temperature increases.  However, the strength of the relationship varies.  I calculated derivatives of Tmin and IR to find the daily change in values.  The relationship is strongest at Alice Springs, with a correlation of 0.69, Figure 5:

Fig. 7:  Change in temperature as a function of change in DWIR at Alice Springs.

Melbourne has almost exactly the same correlation (0.68), followed by Cape Grim (0.64) and Rockhampton at 0.61.  However Darwin is much different:

Fig. 8:  Change in temperature as a function of change in DWIR at Darwin.

The reason for this is not as complex as I thought, but first I’ll show a method of showing (and testing) the relationship between DWIR and Tmin more easily.

Converting DWIR to Representative Atmospheric Temperature

From the Bureau’s solar radiation glossary, http://reg.bom.gov.au/climate/austmaps/solar-radiation-glossary.shtml#globalexposure :

Downward infra-red irradianceis related to a `representative (or effective radiative) temperature’ of the Earth’s atmosphere by the Stefan-Boltzmann Law:

E = σ T4

Where: E = irradiance measured [W/m2]
σ = Stefan-Boltzmann constant [5.67 x 10-8 W/m2/K4
T = representative atmospheric temperature [K]

From this we can calculate the daily Representative Atmospheric Temperature (RAT) above each weather station.  Here is a plot of RAT for Alice Springs.

Fig. 9: Representative Atmospheric Temperature and Minima at Alice Springs

RAT is always colder than the surface.  Notice how closely Tmin tracks with RAT. 

To compare them more closely, I scaled up RAT by adding the average monthly difference from Tmin.  Now you can see how closely minimum temperature is related to RAT and thus DWIR.

Fig. 10:  Scaled Representative Atmospheric Temperature and Minima at Alice Springs

Zooming in to the period from 31 March to 4 June:

Fig. 11 :  Scaled RAT and Minima at Alice Springs, 31 March – 4 June 2018

The timing of variations is very close.

Here is a plot of the actual daily difference between minimum surface temperature and Representative Atmospheric Temperature.  I have marked some unusually low and high values for closer inspection..

Fig. 12:  Daily difference between Surface Minima and RATat Alice Springs

What causes these fluctuations?  Returning to actual temperature and calculated RAT, here is the plot for the year to 15 April:

Fig. 13:  RAT and Minima at Alice Springs, 1 January – 15 April 2018

Both Tmin and RAT usually move in unison, rising and falling together.  However, notice at point A there is very little difference between the values, but at point B there is a very large difference.

Here’s the plot for November and December.  A and B have very small differences, while C and D have very large differences.

Fig. 14:  RAT and Minima at Alice Springs, 6 November – 31 December 2018

Cloudy conditions increase downwelling IR.  With no daily cloud data, rainfall will be a proxy for some cloudy days.  (There will be plenty of cloudy days when there is no rain.)  Here is a plot of rainfall and the difference between surface minima and calculated RAT.

Fig. 15:  Rainy weather and Tmin minus RAT at Alice Springs

Rainfall appears to coincide with very low differences when RAT (derived from DWIR) has increased but corresponding Tmin has not increased as much as expected.  Let’s zoom in to look at Points A and B from Figure 13 above.

Fig. 16:  Rainy weather and Tmin minus RAT at Alice Springs, January – April

In fact rain coincides with nearly all of the low differences.  Point B remains anomalously high.  What about November and December?

Fig. 17:  Rainy weather and Tmin minus RAT at Alice Springs, November – December

Here we have a problem.  Points A and B from Figure 14 above line up with rain events.  Instead of being a low difference as expected, point C has a high value coinciding with a small rain event, and D is on its own.  Why?

When RAT is scaled up, the problem (and likely reason) is obvious:

Fig. 18  Scaled RAT and Minima at Alice Springs, December 2018

No IR data is recorded for 11 December.  I suspect that IR values should also be missing for 12 and 13 December.  Moving remaining data for the month two days later removes these strange inconsistencies (and also dramatically improves correlation between IR change and temperature change to above 0.7.)

Which still leaves the odd spike in Figure 13 at point B.

The Exception Proves The Rule

Here is a count of the number of days with no IR data at Alice Springs in 2018.

Fig.19:  Count of days with no data at Alice Springs

There are a few minutes of missing data on nearly every day, but data was completely absent for eight whole days in March, and three days in December.  Did the pyrgeometer stop recording suddenly?  Was it a sudden fault or was it failing gradually?  Figure 20 shows the 31 day centred running correlation between change in DWIR and change in Tmin, with missing days shown.

Fig. 20:  Centred 31 day running correlation between change in DWIR and change in Minima

If all is well, and the relationship between change in DWIR and temperature minima is sound, the correlation between them should be fairly constant.  However, if the pyrgeometer reads incorrectly (or else the temperature probe- another possibility, but not in this case), correlation will suffer.  This is shown in March and December.  From April to September, change in Tmin correlates well with change in DWIR being between 0.8 and 0.9 for nearly the whole time.

Now let’s look at Darwin, which we saw in Figure 8 above was poorly correlated.   The running correlation shows when faults may have occurred.

Fig. 21:  Centred 31 day running correlation between change in DWIR and change in Minima

The dips above coincide with equipment failure in January, March, November and December.  There also appears to be a problem in August – September.

It does not help that the equipment failures occur in rainy, cloudy periods (Wet and Build-up).

Fig. 22:  Rainy weather and Tmin minus RAT at Darwin

In the Dry, with no rain, the difference between Tmin and the RAT (Representative Atmospheric Temperature) still fluctuates wildly.  Here is a plot of the difference for June 2018:

Fig. 23:  Daily difference between Surface Minima and RATat Darwin June 2018

If the relationship is valid, and there are no recording problems, then large differences occur during fine and cloudless conditions and low values indicate cloudy conditions.  The daily total of Global Solar Exposure can also be a metric of cloudiness, because smaller amounts of sunlight reach the ground on cloudy days.   Figure 24 is a plot of the sum total of Global Irradiance in kiloWattminutes per square metre received each day.

Fig. 24: Daily total of Global Irradiance Darwin, June 2018

Apart from 10 – 12 June, the relationship holds.  Darwin’s apparent poor relationship between DWIR and Minima is very probably due to equipment failure.

The apparent exceptions to the “rule” that large differences between minima and Representative Atmospheric Temperature occur in dry, cloud free conditions, and small differences in cloudy conditions, in fact confirm it. 

Conclusion:

  • Downwelling infra-red radiation (so called “back radiation”) is real and measurable including at night.
  • It is greatly increased by cloud and humidity.
  • It results from daytime heating of the ground, which then loses heat by conduction, convection, evaporation, and radiation, into the atmosphere where the IR is repeatedly absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by greenhouse gases (including water vapour).
  • A warmer atmosphere from whatever cause, natural or enhanced, will result in greater downwelling IR.
  • Temperature Maxima highs and lows precede those of minima by one day NEARLY ALWAYS, due to the influence of downwelling IR.
  • Calculating Representative Atmospheric Temperature from downwelling IR using the  Stefan-Boltzman Law provides further insights.
  • The daily minimum RAT is always much colder than minimum temperature.
  • The difference between the two changes with the weather.  Sunny, dry, cloudless weather is associated with large differences, while cloudy weather is associated with small differences.
  • When recording error is accounted for there is very good correlation between downwelling infra-red irradiance and daily minimum temperatures at a range of sites across Australia.
  • In Australia, meteorological equipment can deteriorate for some time and fail completely, resulting in faulty data being included in national databases.
  • Finally, the effect of DWIR on minima is not site dependent.  Both Melbourne and Rockhampton have Urban Heat Island influence but the relationship is similar to that of other sites.  Minima are directly related to DWIR, but DWIR is increased not only by clouds, but also by large trees, nearby buildings, and areas of concrete and bitumen.

Downwelling Infra-Red Radiation and Temperature: Part 1

January 22, 2020

Way back in July last year I posted about the long term decrease in downwelling IR at Cape Grim and Alice Springs, despite rising CO2.

From the Bureau’s solar radiation glossary,
“Downward infrared irradiance is a measurement of the irradiance arriving on a horizontal plane at the Earth’s surface, for wavelengths in the range 4 – 100 μm (the wavelength emitted by atmospheric gases and aerosols). It is related to a `representative (or effective radiative) temperature’ of the Earth’s atmosphere by the Stefan-Boltzmann Law:
E = σ T4
Where: E = irradiance measured [W/m2]
σ = Stefan-Boltzmann constant [5.67 x 10-8 W/m2/K4
T = representative atmospheric temperature [K]
Consequently, this quantity will continue to have a positive value, even at night time. It can be measured using an Eppley PIR pyrgeometer.”

As atmospheric temperature increases, DWIR must also increase. This would be a symptom of warming.
A reader commented: ”What we need is DWIR nighttime measurements only (preferably without clouds) in a location where there is little or no water vapour. Atacama Chile would be perfect. Alice Springs maybe but less so. i am willing to bet that one couldn’t measure the DWIR at night without clouds in Atacama because it would be so low.”
I am unable to get data for Atacama, but here is DWIR data for Alice Springs for July 2018. July is mid-winter and usually dry and cloud free. No rain fell in July 2018 at the Alice.
Figure 1 shows maxima and minima for the month:
While July had no rain, there were several large weather changes shown by the spikes and dips in temperature. Coldest temperatures were on 12-13-14 July.
Fig.1: Surface temperatures Alice Springs July 2018

Next, downwelling IR. The weather changes show up in IR as well.
Fig.2: Downwelling IR Alice Springs July 2018

Now for IR in the hours of darkness:
Fig.3: Downwelling IR Alice Springs July 2018 at night (6pm to 6am)

Clearly, DWIR is real and measurable at night, in all conditions. It usually (but not always) decreases in a smooth curve. Putting it together, we see a clear daily cycle: DWIR usually increases rapidly in daytime, and decreases at night.
Fig.4: Downwelling IR Alice Springs July 2018 by day and night

Now we look at typical IR behaviour in cool, dry conditions on 12 and 13 July 2018. The x-axis is in 3 hourly divisions and I have marked in midnight of 12-13.
Fig.5: Downwelling IR Alice Springs 12-13 July 2018

Note the curve is not completely smooth: there are little variations due to pockets of different temperatures in the air. The lowest DWIR values (227.36 Watts/sq.metre averaged over one minute) are reached around 8.00 a.m. shortly after sunrise, then values rise rapidly before tapering off to peak in the late afternoon. During the night they decrease until the sun heats the ground again in the morning.
Now for the period 5 to 8 July:
Fig.6: Downwelling IR Alice Springs 5-8 July 2018

On the 6th and 8th strange things happen after midnight, almost certainly clouds.
Strange things also happen from 23 to 25 July. On the 24th a heavy bank of cloud comes over and clears with a sudden dry change after sundown, with more separated clouds arriving later at night before finally clearing about 9 a.m. next morning.
Fig.7: Downwelling IR Alice Springs 23 – 25 July 2018

How do I know those spikes were caused by clouds? Here’s direct radiation and IR for 23-25 July.
Fig.8: Downwelling IR and Direct Irradiance Alice Springs 23 – 25 July 2018

Direct irradiance is the radiation from the sun’s direct beam. It is zero at night but rises rapidly to peak at local solar noon, then rapidly falls to zero at dusk. Not all solar radiation reaches the surface. Some is reflected, some is scattered by dust, smoke, or rain drops, but on a clear day the pattern is like 23 July. On 24 July clouds block the sun’s direct rays for most of the day, and downwelling IR increases markedly. This is from warm moist air in the cloud which has come from somewhere else.
My conclusion:
Downwelling infra-red radiation (so called “back radiation”) is real and measurable including at night.
It is greatly increased by cloud and humidity, and there is always some moisture in the air even in the desert.
It results from the ground heating up in the daytime, which then loses heat by conduction, convection, and radiation, into the atmosphere where the IR is repeatedly absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by greenhouse gases (including water vapour).
A warmer atmosphere from whatever cause, natural or enhanced, will result in greater downwelling IR.


Future posts will look at the relationship between solar radiation, downwelling IR, and temperature.

Solar Exposure

June 6, 2018

The Bureau of Meteorology publishes many useful datasets on its Climate Data Online portal, including one minute solar exposure data for selected sites around Australia.  You have to register to receive monthly data here.

(In contrast with their one minute temperature data which are not available at CDO but must be requested and purchased, and are really “final second of each minute”, their solar exposure data are (a) free, and (b) include for each minute, maximum 1 second irradiance, minimum 1 second irradiance, and THE MEAN IRRADIANCE FOR THE PREVIOUS 60 SECONDS.  Why not temperature?  We can only wonder.  But I digress.)

I am naturally curious and enjoy finding out new stuff, so in this post I’ll show a number of plots for the months of July 2017, December 2017, and February 2018 to illustrate some things I’ve found about summer and winter solar exposure for Rockhampton.  Why Rocky?  It’s where I live, and is just a few kilometres north of the Tropic of Capricorn.  At the end of December the sun is directly overhead, so December shows interesting information.  February is typically the wettest and cloudiest month, and July usually the coldest and driest.

One minute solar exposure data have several components:  direct (normal) irradiance (rate of energy from the direct beam of the sun tracked throughout the day); direct horizontal irradiance (the amount striking a horizontal surface); diffuse irradiance (radiation scattered from the atmosphere including dust and clouds striking a horizontal surface); and “global” irradiance which is the sum of the horizontal and diffuse components.  Also measured is “terrestrial” irradiance, which is downwards infra-red radiation on a horizontal surface, and related to the temperature of the atmosphere, including from clouds and humidity (not just at ground level, but throughout the troposphere).

Figure 1:  Irradiance for February 2018

rocky all feb 18

Note that terrestrial (infra-red) irradiance is fairly constant at around 350-450 watts per square metre, while direct irradiance on a horizontal surface fluctuates from zero to ~1000 W/sq.m., and diffuse irradiance fluctuates from zero to ~900 W/sq.m.  For a closer look here are the same data for one day, 1st February:

Figure 2:  Irradiance for 1 February 2018

rocky all 1 feb 18

Mean horizontal irradiance (the direct beam from the sun on a horizontal surface) is zero in the absence of direct sunlight- at night, but also when clouds are thick enough, and also is greatly reduced even by thinner cloud; at other times, it rises rapidly to ~900 W/sq.m. at noon.

Diffuse irradiance is zero until a few minutes before sunrise, with radiation reflecting from clouds, dust, and other atmospheric particles; similarly just after sundown.  It is much higher in cloudy conditions.

IR irradiance, relatively constant before sunrise at ~400 W/sq.m., rises during the day as the atmosphere warms.  It also fluctuates with cloudy conditions, more noticeably at night.  Clouds are composed of water droplets and emit IR radiation- a natural greenhouse effect.

The next plot shows how irradiance varies over four days as clouds and rain increase.

Figure 3:  Irradiance for 1 – 4 February 2018

rocky all 1 to 4 feb 18

The effect of cloud on horizontal irradiance is obvious.  Diffuse irradiance is maximised on the 3rd; on the 4th, clouds reflect most solar radiation, the surface is cool, and IR irradiance which had increased due to cloudiness on the 2nd and 3rd, returns to ~400 W/sq.m.

By contrast, Figure 4 shows irradiance during the hottest week of February with maxima above 39.1C (41.1C on the 12th).

Figure 4:  Irradiance for 11 – 15 February 2018

rocky all 11 to 15 feb 18

Note the smooth curves of horizontal and diffuse irradiance on 11th and 12th; early morning cloud on 13th – 15th with diffuse and IR increasing; and IR increases with surface temperature, peaking in the late afternoon- with little surges as clouds pass overhead.

Figure 5 shows the variation of IR irradiance during February.

Figure 5:  IR Irradiance for February 2018

rocky IR feb 18

The diurnal fluctuation typically of 60-70 W/sq.m. is obvious, as is the change over time.  The bottom of the daily fluctuation occurs in the early morning.  Notice the effect on the minimum temperature:

Figure 6:  Minima for February 2018

Tmin Feb 18

The last plot for February shows the irradiance from the direct beam of the sun tracked throughout the day:

Figure 7:  Direct Irradiance for February 2018

rocky direct feb 18

It’s interesting that the irradiance of the direct beam is not constant, even on clear sunny days.  It is possible that the rain of the first four days removed suspended particles; from 5th to 9th the wind was from the east or south-east (from the sea); from the 11th to 15th it was from the north west to north, blowing dust and smoke from the land, resulting in slightly dimmer conditions.

I now turn to July 2017.  July is usually the coolest and driest month in Rockhampton.

Figure 8:  Irradiance for July 2017

rocky all july 17

Due to the much lower solar angle, horizontal irradiance is much lower than February, mostly from 600 to 700 W/sq.m.  IR irradiance is more variable, so needs a closer look.

Figure 9:  Irradiance for 6 – 10 July 2017

rocky all 6 to 10 july 17

These were cloudy days, with wind from the north-west on the 6th to 8th, with a south-east change on the 9th with light rain on 9th and 10th.

19th to 22nd shows more of this atypical winter weather.

Figure 10:  Irradiance for 19 – 22 July 2017

rocky all 19 to 22 july 17

Overcast and 90% Relative Humidity in the morning of the 19th, then RH fell rapidly, with the lowest 3:00 p.m. reading for the month (16%) and 9:00 a.m. (36%) on the afternoon of the 21st and the morning of the 22nd– when IR, and minimum temperature, were lowest for the month.  The 20th and 21st were clear sunny days.   Some cloud arrived on the afternoon of the 22nd.

Figure 11:  Irradiance for 25 – 28 July 2017

rocky all 25 to 28 july 17

This is typical winter weather- clear skies, cool nights followed by warm sunny days.  Note the smooth curves for horizontal and diffuse irradiance, both much less than February.  This indicates cloudless skies and low humidity.  There is a little early morning fog or mist as indicated by small wiggles in IR irradiance, but not enough to affect diffuse irradiance.  IR irradiance again peaks in mid afternoon.

Figure 12:  IR Irradiance for July 2017

rocky IR july 17

Due to less direct irradiance, cooler temperatures, and lower humidity, IR irradiance is much lower than in February, and rarely exceeds 400 W/sq.m.  IR fluctuates less in clear dry conditions.   Again, IR is reflected in minima:

Figure 13:  Minima for July 2017

Tmin July 17

Figure 14:  Direct Irradiance for July 2017

rocky direct july 17

Note that direct irradiance is not much less than in February, even for being soon after aphelion: it is the sun’s lower angle in the sky that makes most of the difference.  The clear dry days on the 20th and 21st have the highest irradiance.

The next plots are for December, around summer solstice and close to perihelion, when days are typically hot and sultry.

Figure 15:  Irradiance for December 2017

rocky all dec 17

The first four days, and the 9th, were cloudy, with rain on 3rd and 4th, as you can see from the horizontal irradiance.  On the remaining days irradiance was close to 1000 W/sq.m.

Figure 16:  IR Irradiance for December 2017

rocky IR dec 17

Heavy cloud, swept in from the Coral Sea, on the first four days, and hotter maxima on the last two, pushed IR well above 400W/sq.m.

And the plot for minima:

Figure 17:  Minima for December 2017

Tmin Dec 17

Last one!

Figure 18:  Direct Irradiance for December 2017

rocky direct dec 17

You will notice that with the sun virtually directly overhead around noon each day (from 1.56 degrees from zenith on 1st December to 0.01 degrees from zenith on Christmas Day), sun tracking direct irradiance is almost the same as the horizontal irradiance.

What have I learnt?  The variability of solar exposure, which is strongly affected by what’s in the atmosphere: dust, smoke, gaseous water, liquid water (clouds); as well as time of year and time of day.  The extent that downwards infra-red irradiance, which is an indicator of atmospheric temperature, is increased by daytime surface temperature and also very noticeably by clouds, and decreased by lower humidity.  How IR strongly influences minima- the greenhouse effect.

Nothing new probably, but I hope you found it as interesting as I did.

Finally:  why, oh why, can’t the Bureau make one minute temperature data freely available, and why does it persist with one second temperature readings rather than the mean over the previous minute, which it calculates with solar exposure?

My next post will look at different factors influencing temperature, including solar exposure.