As many environmental models rely on simulating the energy balance at the Earth’s surface based on parameterized radiative fluxes, knowledge of the inherent model uncertainties is important. In this study we evaluate one parameterization of clear-sky direct, diffuse and global shortwave downward radiation (SDR) and diverse parameterizations of clear-sky and all-sky longwave downward radiation (LDR). In a first step, SDR is estimated based on measured input variables and estimated atmospheric parameters for hourly time steps during the years 1996 to 2008. Model behaviour is validated using the high quality measurements of six Alpine Surface Radiation Budget (ASRB) stations in Switzerland covering different elevations, and measurements of the Swiss Alpine Climate Radiation Monitoring network (SACRaM) in Payerne. In a next step, twelve clear-sky LDR parameterizations are calibrated using the ASRB measurements. One of the best performing parameterizations is elected to estimate all-sky LDR, where cloud transmissivity is estimated using measured and modeled global SDR during daytime. In a last step, the performance of several interpolation methods is evaluated to determine the cloud transmissivity in the night.
We show that clear-sky direct, diffuse and global SDR is adequately represented by the model when using measurements of the atmospheric parameters precipitable water and aerosol content at Payerne. If the atmospheric parameters are estimated and used as a fix value, the relative mean bias deviance (MBD) and the relative root mean squared deviance (RMSD) of the clear-sky global SDR scatter between between −2 and 5 %, and 7 and 13 % within the six locations. The small errors in clear-sky global SDR can be attributed to compensating effects of modeled direct and diffuse SDR since an overestimation of aerosol content in the atmosphere
results in underestimating the direct, but overestimating the diffuse SDR. Calibration of LDR parameterizations to local conditions reduces MBD and RMSD strongly compared to using the published values of the parameters, resulting in relative MBD and RMSD of less than 5 % respectively 10 % for the best parameterizations. The best results to estimate cloud transmissivity during nighttime were obtained by linearly interpolating the average of the cloud transmissivity of the four hours of the preceeding afternoon and the following morning.
Model uncertainty can be caused by different errors such as code implementation, errors in input data and in estimated parameters, etc. The influence of the latter (errors in input data and model parameter uncertainty) on model outputs is determined using Monte Carlo. Model uncertainty is provided as the relative standard deviation σrel of the simulated frequency distributions of the model outputs. An optimistic estimate of the relative uncertainty σrel resulted in 10 % for the clear-sky direct, 30 % for diffuse, 3 % for global SDR, and 3 % for the fitted all-sky LDR.