Articles | Volume 16, issue 9
Research article
05 Sep 2012
Research article |  | 05 Sep 2012

Parameterization of atmospheric longwave emissivity in a mountainous site for all sky conditions

J. Herrero and M. J. Polo

Abstract. Longwave radiation is an important component of the energy balance of the Earth's surface. The downward component, emitted by the clouds and aerosols in the atmosphere, is rarely measured, and is still not well understood. In mountainous areas, direct observations are even scarcer and the fitting of existing models is often subjected to local parameterization in order to surplus the particular physics of the atmospheric profiles. The influence of clouds makes it even harder to estimate for all sky conditions. This work presents a long-time continuous dataset of high-resolution longwave radiation measured in a weather station at a height of 2500 m a.s.l. in Sierra Nevada, Spain, together with the parameterization of the apparent atmospheric emissivity for clear and cloudy skies resulting from three different schemes. We evaluate the schemes of Brutsaert, and Crawford and Duchon with locally adjusted coefficients and compare them with a completely parametric expression adjusted for these data that takes into account three possible significant atmospheric states related to the cloud cover: clear, completely covered, and partly covered skies. All the parametric expressions are related to the screen-level values of temperature, relative humidity and solar radiation, which can be frequently found in standard weather stations. Unobserved cloudiness measurements needed for Brutsaert scheme for cloudy sky are also parameterized from screen-level measurements. The calibration performed for a 6-yr period at the study site resulted in satisfactory estimations of emissivity for all the analyzed schemes thanks to the local fitting of the parameterizations, with the best achievement found for the completely parametric expression. Further validation of the expressions in two alternative sites showed that the greater accuracy of the latter can also be found in very close sites, while a better performance of the Brutsaert scheme, with a more physical background and the successful parameterization of the clouds effect, is found in nearby sites outside the initial mountain range. The results show the feasibility for the local calibration of expressions to estimate instantaneous atmospheric emissivity for all sky conditions only using surface data, either with a completely parametric scheme if longwave data are available, or through obtaining of locally fitted coefficients for Brutsaert and derived schemes. Nevertheless, the best performance of the first approach would be at the expense of a reduced local applicability.