Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate


Inge Dirmhirn


This study addresses the availability of total solar irradiance at the earth's surface during varying weather conditions . Two years of irradiance and meteorological data were collected at mountain and valley sites along 40° North latitude in the Rocky Mountains of Utah and Colorado.

Generalized cases of recurring seasonal weather episodes and the associated t o t al irradiance a re identified and discussed , including local mesoscale phenomena (orographic clouds , valley fog, etc.) unique to mountainous regions . The generalized cases can be useful in long- range energy assessment planning. The east and west slopes of the Rocky Mountains are shown to have similar annual average solar energy potential , however the seasonal differences reveal unique climates which require different considerations for each slope.

Short -term relationships between cloudiness and t o t al irradiance are developed for the mountainous region, providing a tool for forecasting solar irradiance using a cloudiness forecast. Total irradiance is shown to correlate much better to opaque sky cover than co total cloud cover . The relationships on the east and west slopes are similar , however greater variations a re observed with elevation between the moun t ain and valley sites . Short- term forecasting of irradiance is found to be limited due t o unreliable cloudiness fore-casting techniques , tho ugh satellite imagery trajectories are more reliable than numerical methods.



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