Can AERONET data be used to accurately model the monochromatic beam and circumsolar irradiances under cloud-free conditions in desert environment?
Abstract. Routine measurements of the beam irradiance at normal incidence include the irradiance originating from within the extent of the solar disc only (DNIS), whose angular extent is 0.266° ± 1.7 %, and from a larger circumsolar region, called the circumsolar normal irradiance (CSNI). This study investigates whether the spectral aerosol optical properties of the AERONET stations are sufficient for an accurate modelling of the monochromatic DNIS and CSNI under cloud-free conditions in a desert environment. The data from an AERONET station in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and the collocated Sun and Aureole Measurement instrument which offers reference measurements of the monochromatic profile of solar radiance were exploited. Using the AERONET data both the radiative transfer models libRadtran and SMARTS offer an accurate estimate of the monochromatic DNIS, with a relative root mean square error (RMSE) of 6 % and a coefficient of determination greater than 0.96. The observed relative bias obtained with libRadtran is +2 %, while that obtained with SMARTS is −1 %. After testing two configurations in SMARTS and three in libRadtran for modelling the monochromatic CSNI, libRadtran exhibits the most accurate results when the AERONET aerosol phase function is presented as a two-term Henyey–Greenstein phase function. In this case libRadtran exhibited a relative RMSE and a bias of respectively 27 and −24 % and a coefficient of determination of 0.882. Therefore, AERONET data may very well be used to model the monochromatic DNIS and the monochromatic CSNI. The results are promising and pave the way towards reporting the contribution of the broadband circumsolar irradiance to standard measurements of the beam irradiance.