Measuring Broadband IR Irradiance in the Direct Solar Beam and Recent Developments

Research output: NRELPoster


Solar and atmospheric science radiometers such as pyranometers, pyrheliometers, and photovoltaic cells are calibrated with traceability to a consensus reference which is maintained by Absolute Cavity Radiometers (ACRs). An ACR is an open cavity with no window, developed to measure the extended broadband spectrum of the terrestrial direct solar beam irradiance that extends beyond the ultraviolet and infrared bands; i.e. below 0.2 um and above 50 um, respectively. On the other hand, the pyranometers and pyrheliometers were developed to measure broadband shortwave irradiance from approximately 0.3 um to 3 um, while the present photovoltaic cells are limited to the spectral range of approximately 0.3 um to 1 um. The broadband mismatch of ACR versus such radiometers causes discrepancy in radiometers' calibration methods that has not been discussed or addressed in the solar and atmospheric science literature. Pyrgeometers, which measure the atmospheric longwave irradiance, are also used for solar and atmospheric science applications and calibrated with traceability to a consensus reference, yet they are calibrated during nighttime only, because no consensus reference has been established for the daytime longwave irradiance. This poster describes a method to measure the broadband longwave irradiance in the terrestrial direct solar beam from 3 um to 50 um, as a first step that might be used to help develop calibration methods to address the mismatch between broadband ACR and shortwave radiometers, and the lack of a daytime reference for pyrgeometers. The described method is used to measure the irradiance from sunrise to sunset; the irradiance varied from approximately 1 Wm-2 to 16 Wm-2 with an estimated uncertainty of 1.5 Wm-2, for a solar zenith angle range from 80 degrees to 16 degrees, respectively. Recent development shows that there is greater than 1.1 percent bias in measuring shortwave solar irradiance.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePresented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, 12-16 December 2016, San Francisco, California

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PO-1900-67361


  • absolute cavity radiometer
  • calibration
  • longwave
  • pyranometer
  • pyrgeometer
  • pyrheliometer
  • shortwave
  • solar irradiance


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