Calibrated digital images of Campbell-Stokes recorder card archives for direct solar irradiance studies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • A.M. Horseman
  • T. Richardson
  • A.T. Boardman
  • W. Tych
  • R. Timmis


A systematic, semi-automatic method for imaging the cards from the widely used Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder is described. We show how the application of inexpensive commercial equipment and practices can simply and robustly build an archive of high-quality card images and manipulate them into a form suitable for easy further analysis. Rectified and registered digital images are produced, with the card's midday marker in the middle of the longest side, and with a temporal scaling of 150 pixels per hour. The method improves on previous, mostly manual, analyses by simplifying and automating steps into a process capable of handling thousands of cards in a practical timescale. A prototype method of extraction of data from this archive is then tested by comparison with records from a co-located pyrheliometer at a resolution of the order of minutes. The comparison demonstrates that the Campbell-Stokes recorder archive contains a time series of downwelling solar-irradiance-related data with similar characteristics to that of benchmark pyrheliometer data from the Baseline Surface Radiation Network. A universal transfer function for card burn to direct downwelling short-wave radiation is still some way off and is the subject of ongoing research. Until such time as a universal transfer function is available, specific functions for extracting data in particular circumstances offer a useful way forward. The new image-capture method offers a practical way to exploit the worldwide sets of long-term Campbell-Stokes recorder data to create a time series of solar irradiance and atmospheric aerosol loading metrics reaching back over 100 yr from the present day.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1371-1379
Number of pages9
JournalAtmospheric Measurement Techniques
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013