Using bright sunshine at low-elevation angles to compile an historical record of the effect of aerosol on incoming solar radiation

A Horseman, Angus Mackenzie, R Timmis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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In seeking an indicator of multi-decadal aerosol effects on incoming solar radiation, the: records of bright sunshine from a standard meteorological instrument, the Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder, have been examined using two new metrics: (i) the frequency o 'burn' for solar elevation angles below 2 degrees, (ii) an efficiency of 'burn' measure at low-elevation angles. Proof-of-concept results from a site in north-west England, U.K., show signals in the relevant bright sunshine record consistent with known events of volcanic injection into the stratosphere, and with a brightening in the last decade compared with the 1970s. This brightening is consistent with regional surface air-pollution records and if most evident in winter - suggesting that it is due to a reduction of particulate emissions from space heating. Between the late 1970s and early 2000s, there was a nearly four-fold increase in the number of evenings and mornings around the solstices that recorded bright sunshine at elevation angles below 2 degrees. Current meteorological practice assumes bright sunshine will not be recorded below 3 degrees, and could therefore need amending. The method avoids the need for high-frequency cloud-cover data by normalising low-elevation sunshine against daily sunshine totals. This makes the method applicable at a much widen range of meteorological observation sites. Because of the extensive past use of Campbell-Stokes recorders, the method opens the possibility of generating a new archive of airborne particulate changes based on the attenuation of direct insolation at low-elevation angles (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7600-7610
Number of pages11
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Issue number33
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008


  • Aerosol
  • Particulate pollution
  • Sunshine recorder
  • Global dimming/brightening


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