Evaluating long-term changes and their causes in surface solar irradiance in Oregon
Riihimaki, Laura, 1979-
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Riihimaki, Laura, 1979-
The amount of solar radiation at the earth's surface is modulated by fluctuations in aerosol density and cloud optical depth--two uncertain factors in climate change studies. The University of Oregon Solar Radiation Monitoring Lab has collected five-minute resolution surface shortwave irradiance measurements at three sites in Oregon since 1980 or earlier. Direct normal surface solar irradiance has increased 4-5% per decade (8-11 W/m 2 per decade) at these three sites since 1980 (1979 in Eugene). Total solar irradiance has likewise increased by 1-2% per decade (2-3 W/m 2 per decade). This unusually long direct normal time series was used to examine the causes of trends because of its high sensitivity to scattering and high instrumental accuracy. The strongest factor causing direct normal irradiance trends was found to be the high stratospheric aerosol concentrations after the volcanic eruptions of El ChichÃ Ã Ã Ã Â³n (1982) and Mt. Pinatubo (1991). Removing the four years most impacted by each volcanic eruption (1982-1985 and 1991-1994) reduces the trend in annual average direct normal irradiance by 20-55%, depending on the site. All measurement sites show low irradiance values before the volcanic eruption of El ChichÃ Ã Ã Ã Â³n in 1982 compared to later periods of relatively low volcanic aerosols (1989- 1990, and 2000-2007). These low values are visible both in all-sky and clear-sky monthly averages, suggesting high aerosol loads as a likely cause. Clear-sky direct normal irradiance measurements from high solar zenith angles (6575Ã Ã Ã Ã Â°) are analyzed to test the hypothesis that the increase in irradiance comes from a reduction of anthropogenic aerosols since the late 1980s. No change in anthropogenic aerosols between 1987 and 2007 is detectable within the noise of the data. Even after removing the four years most heavily impacted by volcanic eruptions, the continued reduction of volcanic aerosol loads causes over half of the clear-sky direct normal irradiance increase since 1987. The remaining increase could be accounted for by a 20-year decrease in 550 nm aerosol optical depth of .005 Ã Ã Ã Ã Â± .005, or 6% Ã Ã Ã Ã Â± 6%, but considerable statistical uncertainty exists.