SURFRAD includes ancillary data (e.g., cloud cover, moisture) that affect the transfer of solar and thermal infrared radiation to and from the surface. An aerosol optical depth product has been recently added.
Aerosol optical depth is a measure of the extinction of the solar beam by dust and haze. In other words, particles in the atmosphere (dust, smoke, pollution) can block sunlight by absorbing or by scattering light. AOD tells us how much direct sunlight is prevented from reaching the ground by these aerosol particles. It is a dimensionless number that is related to the amount of aerosol in the vertical column of atmosphere over the observation location.
A value of 0.01 corresponds to an extremely clean atmosphere, and a value of 0.4 would correspond to a very hazy condition. An average aerosol optical depth for the U.S. is 0.1 to 0.15.
The SURFRAD MFRSR Channel Calibration Algorithm
MFRSR channels are calibrated using a linearized form of Beer's Law to produce Langley plots (right) from which an extrapolation to zero path length represents the calibration (Vo), or what the instrument would measure at the top of the atmosphere. Therefore absolute calibrations of the channels is not necessary for the AOD application.
A plot of the log of voltage measurements versus the path length (m) will produce a straight line if all measurements were collected with a clear view of the sun. The extrapolation to 0 m is the log of Vo--the calibration.
Therefore, only measurements made under pristine conditions are used for calibration Langley plots.