Articles | Volume 7, issue 12
Research article
03 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 03 Dec 2014

Recovering long-term aerosol optical depth series (1976–2012) from an astronomical potassium-based resonance scattering spectrometer

A. Barreto, E. Cuevas, P. Pallé, P. M. Romero, C. Guirado, C. J. Wehrli, and F. Almansa

Abstract. A 37-year long-term series of monochromatic aerosol optical depth (AOD) has been recovered from solar irradiance measurements performed with the solar spectrometer Mark-I, deployed at Izaña mountain since 1976. The instrument operation is based on the method of resonant scattering, which affords wavelength absolute reference and stability (long-term stability and high precision) in comparison to other instruments based purely on interference filters. However, it has been specifically designed as a reference instrument for helioseismology, and its ability to determine AOD from transmitted and scattered monochromatic radiation at 769.9 nm inside a potassium vapour cell in the presence of a permanent magnetic field is evaluated in this paper. Particularly, the use of an exposed mirror arrangement to collect sunlight as well as the Sun–laboratory velocity dependence of the scattered component introduces some important inconveniences to overcome when we perform the instrument's calibration. We have solved this problem using a quasi-continuous Langley calibration technique and a refinement procedure to correct for calibration errors as well as for the fictitious diurnal cycle on AOD data. Our results showed similar calibration errors retrieved by means of this quasi-continuous Langley technique applied in different aerosol load events (from 0.04 to 0.3), provided aerosol concentration remains constant throughout the calibration interval. It assures the validity of this technique when it is applied in those periods with relatively high aerosol content. The comparative analysis between the recovered AOD data set from the Mark-I and collocated quasi-simultaneous data from the Cimel-AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) and Precision Filter Radiometer (PFR) instruments showed an absolute mean bias ≤ 0.01 in the 10- and 12-year comparison, respectively. High correlation coefficients between AERONET and Mark-I and PFR/Mark-I pairs confirmed a very good linear relationship between instruments, proving that recovered AOD data series from Mark-I can be used together with PFR and AERONET AOD data to build a long-term AOD data series at the Izaña site (1976–now), suitable for future analysis of aerosols trends and inter-annual variability. Finally, the AOD preliminary trend analysis in the 29-year period from 1984 to 2012 with Mark-I AOD revealed no significant trends.