Atmospheric impacts on climatic variability of surface incident solar radiation
Abstract. The Earth's climate is driven by surface incident solar radiation (Rs). Direct measurements have shown that Rs has undergone significant decadal variations. However, a large fraction of the global land surface is not covered by these observations. Satellite-derived Rs has a good global coverage but is of low accuracy in its depiction of decadal variability. This paper shows that daily to decadal variations of Rs, from both aerosols and cloud properties, can be accurately estimated using globally available measurements of Sunshine Duration (SunDu). In particular, SunDu shows that since the late 1980's Rs has brightened over Europe due to decreases in aerosols but dimmed over China due to their increases. We found that variation of cloud cover determines Rs at a monthly scale but that aerosols determine the variability of Rs at a decadal time scale, in particular, over Europe and China. Because of its global availability and long-term history, SunDu can provide an accurate and continuous proxy record of Rs, filling in values for the blank areas that are not covered by direct measurements. Compared to its direct measurement, Rs from SunDu appears to be less sensitive to instrument replacement and calibration, and shows that the widely reported sharp increase in Rs during the early 1990s in China was a result of instrument replacement. By merging direct measurements collected by Global Energy Budget Archive with those derived from SunDu, we obtained a good coverage of Rs over the Northern Hemisphere. From this data, the average increase of Rs from 1982 to 2008 is estimated to be 0.87 W m−2 per decade.