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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Atmos. Meas. Tech., 4, 339-354, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
23 Feb 2011
Assessment of BSRN radiation records for the computation of monthly means
A. Roesch1, M. Wild1, A. Ohmura1, E. G. Dutton2, C. N. Long3, and T. Zhang4 1Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Universitaetsstrasse 16, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland
2NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory GMD, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305, USA
3Pacific Northwest Laboratory, 902 Batelle Boulevard, Richland, WA, USA
4NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681, USA
Abstract. The integrity of the Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) radiation monthly averages are assessed by investigating the impact on monthly means due to the frequency of data gaps caused by missing or discarded high time resolution data. The monthly statistics, especially means, are considered to be important and useful values for climate research, model performance evaluations and for assessing the quality of satellite (time- and space-averaged) data products. The study investigates the spread in different algorithms that have been applied for the computation of monthly means from 1-min values.

The paper reveals that the computation of monthly means from 1-min observations distinctly depends on the method utilized to account for the missing data. The intra-method difference generally increases with an increasing fraction of missing data. We found that a substantial fraction of the radiation fluxes observed at BSRN sites is either missing or flagged as questionable. The percentage of missing data is 4.4%, 13.0%, and 6.5% for global radiation, direct shortwave radiation, and downwelling longwave radiation, respectively. Most flagged data in the shortwave are due to nighttime instrumental noise and can reasonably be set to zero after correcting for thermal offsets in the daytime data. The study demonstrates that the handling of flagged data clearly impacts on monthly mean estimates obtained with different methods. We showed that the spread of monthly shortwave fluxes is generally clearly higher than for downwelling longwave radiation.

Overall, BSRN observations provide sufficient accuracy and completeness for reliable estimates of monthly mean values. However, the value of future data could be further increased by reducing the frequency of data gaps and the number of outliers. It is shown that two independent methods for accounting for the diurnal and seasonal variations in the missing data permit consistent monthly means to within less than 1 W m−2 in most cases. The authors suggest using a standardized method for the computation of monthly means which addresses diurnal variations in the missing data in order to avoid a mismatch of future published monthly mean radiation fluxes from BSRN.

The application of robust statistics would probably lead to less biased results for data records with frequent gaps and/or flagged data and outliers. The currently applied empirical methods should, therefore, be completed by the development of robust methods.

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Citation: Roesch, A., Wild, M., Ohmura, A., Dutton, E. G., Long, C. N., and Zhang, T.: Assessment of BSRN radiation records for the computation of monthly means, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 4, 339-354,, 2011.
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