Development of a MODIS-Derived Surface Albedo Data Set: An Improved Model Input for Processing the NSRDB

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


A significant source of bias in the transposition of global horizontal irradiance to plane-of-array (POA) irradiance arises from inaccurate estimations of surface albedo. The current physics-based model used to produce the National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) relies on model estimations of surface albedo from a reanalysis climatalogy produced at relatively coarse spatial resolution compared to that of the NSRDB. As an input to spectral decomposition and transposition models, more accurate surface albedo data from remotely sensed imagery at finer spatial resolutions would improve accuracy in the final product. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed an improved white-sky (bi-hemispherical reflectance) broadband (0.3-5.0 surface albedo data set for processing the NSRDB from two existing data sets: a gap-filled albedo product and a daily snow cover product. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors onboard the Terra and Aqua satellites have provided high-quality measurements of surface albedo at 30 arc-second spatial resolution and 8-day temporal resolution since 2001. The high spatial and temporal resolutions and the temporal coverage of the MODIS sensor will allow for improved modeling of POA irradiance in the NSRDB. However, cloud and snow cover interfere with MODIS observations of ground surface albedo, and thus they require post-processing. The MODIS production team applied a gap-filling methodology to interpolate observations obscured by clouds or ephemeral snow. This approach filled pixels with ephemeral snow cover because the 8-day temporal resolution is too coarse to accurately capture the variability of snow cover and its impact on albedo estimates. However, for this project, accurate representation of daily snow cover change is important in producing the NSRDB. Therefore, NREL also used the Integrated Multisensor Snow and Ice Mapping System data set, which provides daily snow cover observations of the Northern Hemisphere for the temporal extent of the NSRDB (1998-2015). We provide a review of validation studies conducted on these two products and describe the methodology developed by NREL to remap the data products to the NSRDB grid and integrate them into a seamless daily data set.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages23
StatePublished - 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-67306


  • Albedo


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