Surface solar irradiance in continental shallow cumulus clouds fields: Observations and large eddy simulation
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Surface solar irradiance in continental shallow cumulus clouds fields: Observations and large eddy simulation

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  • Journal Title:
    Journal of Atmospheric Sciences
  • Description:
    This study examines shallow cumulus cloud fields and their surface shortwave radiative effects using large-eddy simulation (LES) along with observations across multiple days at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Southern Great Plains atmospheric observatory. Pronounced differences are found between probability density functions (PDFs) of downwelling surface solar irradiance derived from observations and LES one-dimensional (1D) online radiation calculations. The shape of the observed PDF is bimodal, which is only reproduced by offline three-dimensional (3D) radiative transfer calculations, demonstrating PDF bimodality as a 3D radiative signature of continental shallow cumuli. Local differences between 3D and 1D radiative transfer calculations of downwelling surface solar irradiance are, on average, larger than 150 W m−2 on one afternoon. The differences are substantially reduced when spatially averaged over the LES domain and temporally averaged over the diurnal cycle, but systematic 3D biases ranging from 2 to 8 W m−2 persist across different days. Covariations between the domain-averaged surface irradiance, framed as a surface cloud radiative effect, and the simulated cloud fraction are found to follow a consistent diurnal relationship, often exhibiting hysteresis. In contrast, observations show highly variable behavior. By subsampling the LES domain, it is shown that this is due to the limited sampling density of inherently 3D observations. These findings help to define observational requirements for detecting such relationships, provide valuable insight for evaluating weather and climate models against surface observations as they push to ever higher resolutions, and have important implications for future assessments of solar renewable energy potential.
  • Source:
    Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, 77, 3
  • Document Type:
  • Rights Information:
    CC BY
  • Compliance:
    Submitted
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