Chasing a Spectral Rainbow: ARM’s Ever-Evolving Shortwave Radiation Measurements

Published: 16 August 2022

Article on ARM’s solar spectral observation capabilities gets BAMS cover

The June 2022 BAMS cover says, "As Measurements Mature: ARM Reveals Next-Gen Challenges of Radiative Effects on Climate."
The June 2022 cover of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) features the solar spectrum overlaid on a photo of a multifilter rotating shadowband radiometer being calibrated at the NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. Laura Riihimaki, the lead author of the cover article, took the photo while at Mauna Loa to calibrate an ARM shipborne radiometer suite for a 2019–2020 field campaign in the central Arctic. Image is by Sydnee Masias, NOAA.

The cover article of the June 2022 Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) highlights advances in the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) user facility’s solar shortwave spectral observation capabilities.

This article is a shortened adaptation of a paper led by Laura Riihimaki with 21 co-authors. Riihimaki, a research scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences/NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory, oversees a set of ARM radiation instruments.

Since its inception more than 30 years ago, ARM has striven to help improve understanding of radiative transfer through the atmosphere, especially cloud-radiation interactions. While many problems have been solved, others remain stubbornly elusive, at least at the resolution now required by climate models with finer grids. In response, ARM has shifted focus to fine-scale processes controlling aerosol and cloud radiative effects at all scales.

Detailed measurements of aerosol and cloud microphysical and optical properties now aim to further reduce uncertainties in climate models. These measurements, exploiting the latest technology, include shortwave spectral radiation observations of direct transmitted and diffuse scattered components.

This crucial information about atmospheric properties helps scientists assess the Earth’s energy balance through more accurate climate modeling.

ARM’s long-term shortwave spectral data sets, together with new analytical techniques, have the potential to unlock far more insights into complex problems in atmospheric science. As Riihimaki says in an interview printed with the cover story: “This article is an invitation to explore an underutilized treasure trove of data.”

For more details, read the full BAMS paper and this related ARM story.

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ARM is a DOE Office of Science user facility operated by nine DOE national laboratories.