Surface Solar Radiation in North America: A Comparison of Observations, Reanalyses, Satellite, and Derived Products
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Surface Solar Radiation in North America: A Comparison of Observations, Reanalyses, Satellite, and Derived Products

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    Observations of daily surface solar or shortwave radiation data from over 4000 stations have been gathered, covering much of the continental United States as well as portions of Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. The quantity of data increases almost linearly from 1998, when only several hundred stations had data. A quality-control procedure utilizing threshold values along with computing the clear-sky radiation envelope for individual stations was implemented to both screen bad data and rescue informative data. Over two-thirds of the observations are seen as acceptable. There are 15 different surface solar radiation products assessed relative to observations, including reanalyses [Twentieth-Century Reanalysis (20CR), CFS Reanalysis and Reforecast (CFSRR), ERA-Interim, Japanese 55-year Reanalysis Project (JRA-55), MERRA, NARR, and NCEP–NCAR Reanalysis 1 (NCEP-1)], derived products [observations from the CRU and NCEP-1 (CRU–NCEP); Daily Surface Weather and Climatological Summaries (Daymet); Global Land Data Assimilation System, version 1 (GLDAS-1); Global Soil Wetness Project Phase 3 (GSWP3); Multiscale Synthesis and Terrestrial Model Intercomparison Project (MsTMIP); and phase 2 of the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS-2)], and two satellite products (CERES and GOES). All except the CERES product have daily or finer temporal resolution. The RMSE of spatial biases is greater than 18 W m−2 for 13 of the 15 products over the summer season (June–August). None of the daily resolution products fulfill all three desirable criteria of low (<5%) annual or seasonal bias, high correlation with observed cloudiness, and correct distribution of clear-sky radiation. Some products display vestiges of underlying algorithm issues [e.g., from the Mountain Microclimate Simulation Model, version 4.3 (MTCLIM 4.3)] or bias-correction methods. A new bias-correction method is introduced that preserves clear-sky radiation values and better replicates cloudiness statistics. The current quantity of data over the continental United States suggests that a solar radiation product based on, or enhanced with, observations is feasible.
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    Journal of Hydrometeorology, 17(1), 401-420.
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