Inferences of all-sky solar irradiance using Terra and Aqua MODIS satellite data

R. Houborg*, H. Soegaard, W. Emmerich, S. Moran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Solar irradiance is a key environmental control, and accurate spatial and temporal solar irradiance data are important for a wide range of applications related to energy and carbon cycling, weather prediction, and climate change. This study presents a satellite-based scheme for the retrieval of all-sky solar irradiance components, which links a physically based clear-sky model with a neural network version of a rigorous radiative transfer model. The scheme exploits the improved cloud characterization and retrieval capabilities of the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites, and employs a cloud motion tracking scheme for the production of hourly solar irradiance data throughout the day. The scheme was implemented for the Island of Zealand, Denmark (56°N, 12°E) and Southern Arizona, USA (31°N, 110°W) permitting model evaluation for two highly contrasting climates and cloud environments. Information on the atmospheric state was provided by MODIS data products and verifications against AErosol RObotic NETwork (AERONET) data demonstrated usefulness of MODIS aerosol optical depth and total precipitable water vapour retrievals for the delineation of spatial gradients. However, aerosol retrievals were significantly biased for the semi-arid region, and water-vapour retrievals were characterized by systematic deviations from the measurements. Hourly global solar irradiance data were retrieved with overall root mean square deviations of 11.5% (60 W m-2) and 26.6% (72 W m-2) for Southern Arizona and the Island of Zealand, respectively. For both regions, hourly satellite estimates were shown to be more reliable than pyranometer measurements from ground stations only 15 km away from the point of interest, which is comparable to the accuracy level obtainable from geostationary satellites with image acquisitions every 15-30 min. The proposed scheme is particularly useful for solar irradiance mapping in high-latitude regions as data from geostationary satellites experience a gradual degradation in spatial resolution and overall quality with latitude and become unusable above approximately 60° latitude. However, in principle, the scheme can be applied anywhere on the globe, and a synergistic use of MODIS and geostationary satellite datasets may be envisaged for some applications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4509-4535
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 20 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Inferences of all-sky solar irradiance using Terra and Aqua MODIS satellite data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this