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Jonathan Seaquist

Head of department

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Rapid estimation of photosynthetically active radiation over the West African Sahel using the Pathfinder Land Data Set


  • Jonathan Seaquist
  • Lennart Olsson

Summary, in English

Photosynthetically Active Radiation (PAR) is important for assessing both the impact of changing land cover on climate, and for modelling productivity on a regional scale, as well as its potential in areas that are vulnerable to food shortfalls. A relatively simple method that generates spatially comprehensive and representative values of PAR at time scales of 10-days (dekads) or longer is described, tested and implemented over a portion of West Africa. With simple equations to describe the geographical and temporal variation of global radiation receipt at the top of the atmosphere, daily cloud flags from the NOAA/NASA AVHRR Pathfinder Land Data Set (PAL) are used in conjunction with an empirical formula developed by Angstrom and constants tailored to West African conditions to estimate surface receipt of global radiation there. Ground observations of PAR from the HAPEX Sahel experiment (at 13°66' N and 2°53' E from 1992) are used to parameterise the relative sunshine duration variable in the Angstrom relation so as to minimise errors between observed and modelled PAR. Results indicate that PAR may be estimated to within 20 percent of observed values for 28 out of 36 10-day summation periods over a year. End-of-year accumulated PAR is estimated to within 1.96 percent. Normalised root mean square errors (NRMSEs) and normalised mean absolute errors (NMAEs) of 15.69 percent and 12.46 percent, respectively, were obtained for 10-day sums, with values of 10.96 percent and 8.74 percent, respectively, for monthly sums. The spatial variability of end-of-year PAR for 1992 is in accordance with what was expected. Though more accurate methods exist for achieving this, the technique is merited for its ease of application, using an accessible data set, over areas where solar irradiation measurements are lacking.


  • Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science

Publishing year







International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation





Document type

Journal article




  • Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences




  • ISSN: 1569-8432