I want to show that the higher the Sun's altitude, the higher the solar irradiation through the atmosphere, through simple experiments. However, I don't have the instrument that measures irradiation. Is there a good approach?

  • $\begingroup$ Which kind of energy? Without specifying what you're talking about, it will be hard to help. I suppose you think of solar irradiation onto the atmosphere. Then you must specify a wavelength-range, as the atmosphere is in various parts of the spectrum transparent or opaque. $\endgroup$ Apr 4, 2015 at 16:12
  • $\begingroup$ @AtmosphericPrisonEscape Thanks for pointing out. And yes, I meant solar irradiation. But I just want to know a simple experiment without regard to things like wavelength-range. $\endgroup$
    – ZeroPepsi
    Apr 4, 2015 at 17:25
  • $\begingroup$ Are you asking about the change in incident light received as the sun's height above the horizon changes? If so, then you should say "through" the atmosphere instead of "onto". $\endgroup$
    – f.thorpe
    Apr 5, 2015 at 14:29

1 Answer 1


I believe you could use pyranometer data at various elevations to get a non-spectral measurement of the total irradiance received at the Earth's surface. From here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyranometer

A pyranometer is a type of actinometer used to measure broadband solar irradiance on a planar surface and is a sensor that is designed to measure the solar radiation flux density (W/m2) from a field of view of 180 degrees. Pyranometers are frequently used in meteorology, climatology, solar energy studies and building physics. They can be seen in many meteorological stations - typically installed horizontally and next to solar panels - typically mounted with the sensor surface in the plane of the panel.

If you want something more accurate, a pyrheliometer or radiometer is used. From http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/starmeas.html

Direct solar irradiance is the solar radiation that passes directly though the atmosphere from the sun without being scattered or absorbed by the atmosphere. Typically it is measured on a surface that is kept normal to the direction of the center of the sun's disk. That surface is held normal to the sun's position by a solar tracker. Pyrheliometers are most commonly used to measure total direct solar irradiance. The most accurate measurements of this quantity are obtained from absolute cavity radiometers which serve as calibration standards and are being increasingly used operationally.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry, I omitted to write the sun's altitude, and thank you so much for your answer. $\endgroup$
    – ZeroPepsi
    Apr 5, 2015 at 3:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.