Articles | Volume 7, issue 3
Development and technical paper
17 Jun 2014
Development and technical paper |  | 17 Jun 2014

A simple parameterization of the short-wave aerosol optical properties for surface direct and diffuse irradiances assessment in a numerical weather model

J. A. Ruiz-Arias, J. Dudhia, and C. A. Gueymard

Abstract. Broadband short-wave (SW) surface direct and diffuse irradiances are not typically within the set of output variables produced by numerical weather prediction (NWP) models. However, they are frequently requested for solar energy applications. In order to compute them, a detailed representation of the aerosol optical properties is important. Nonetheless, NWP models typically oversimplify aerosol representation or even neglect their effect. In this work, a flexible method to account for the SW aerosol optical properties in the computation of broadband SW surface direct and diffuse irradiances is presented. It only requires aerosol optical depth at 0.55 μm and knowledge of the type of predominant aerosol. Other parameters needed to consider spectral aerosol extinction, namely, Angström exponent, aerosol single-scattering albedo and aerosol asymmetry factor, are parameterized. The parameterization has been tested using the Rapid Radiative Transfer Model for climate and weather models (RRTMG) SW scheme of the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) NWP model for data over the continental US. In principle, it can be adapted to any other SW radiative transfer band model. It has been verified against a control experiment and using data from five radiometric stations in the contiguous US. The control experiment consisted of a clear-sky evaluation of the RRTMG solar radiation estimates obtained in WRF when RRTMG is driven with ground-observed aerosol optical properties. Overall, the verification has shown satisfactory results for both broadband SW surface direct and diffuse irradiances. The parameterization has proven effective in significantly reducing the prediction error and constraining the seasonal bias in clear-sky conditions to within the typical observational error expected in well maintained radiometers.