The Budget of Biologically-Active Ultraviolet-Radiation in the Earth-Atmosphere System

Frederick, JE, Lubin D.  1988.  The Budget of Biologically-Active Ultraviolet-Radiation in the Earth-Atmosphere System. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. 93:3825-3832.

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This study applies the concept of a budget to describe the interaction of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation with the Earth-atmosphere system. The wavelength ranges of interest are the biologically relevant UV-B between 280 and 320 nm and the UV-A from 320 to 400 nm. The Nimbus 7 solar backscattered ultraviolet (SBUV) instrument provides measurements of total column ozone and information concerning cloud cover which, in combination with a simple model of radiation transfer, define the fractions of incident solar irradiance absorbed in the atmosphere, reflected to space, and absorbed at the ground. Results for the month of July quantify the contribution of fractional cloud cover and cloud optical thickness to the radiation budget's three components. Scattering within a thick cloud layer makes the downward radiation field at the cloud base more isotropic than is the case for clear skies. For small solar zenith angles, typical of summer midday conditions, the effective path length of this diffuse irradiance through tropospheric ozone is greater than that under clear-sky conditions. The result is an enhanced absorption of UV-B radiation in the troposphere during cloud-covered conditions. Major changes in global cloud cover or cloud optical thicknesses could alter the ultraviolet radiation received by the biosphere by an amount comparable to that predicted for long-term trends in ozone.