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Science 6 May 2005:
Vol. 308. no. 5723, pp. 850 - 854
DOI: 10.1126/science.1103159


Do Satellites Detect Trends in Surface Solar Radiation?

R. T. Pinker,1 B. Zhang,2 E. G. Dutton3

Long-term variations in solar radiation at Earth's surface (S) can affect our climate, the hydrological cycle, plant photosynthesis, and solar power. Sustained decreases in S have been widely reported from about the year 1960 to 1990. Here we present an estimate of global temporal variations in S by using the longest available satellite record. We observed an overall increase in S from 1983 to 2001 at a rate of 0.16 watts per square meter (0.10%) per year; this change is a combination of a decrease until about 1990, followed by a sustained increase. The global-scale findings are consistent with recent independent satellite observations but differ in sign and magnitude from previously reported ground observations. Unlike ground stations, satellites can uniformly sample the entire globe.

1 Department of Meteorology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
2 Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD 20771, USA.
3 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory (NOAA/CMDL), Code R/CMDL1, 325 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80305, USA.

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