Daskalopoulou, V., Raptis, P. I., Tsekeri, A., Amiridis, V., Kazadzis, S., Ulanowski, Z., Charmandaris, V., Tassis, K., and Martin, W.: Linear polarization signatures of atmospheric dust with the SolPol direct-sun polarimeter, Atmos. Meas. Tech., 16, 4529–4550,, 2023.  

Dust particles in lofted atmospheric layers may present a preferential orientation, which could be detected from the resulting dichroic extinction of the transmitted sunlight. The first indications were provided relatively recently on atmospheric dust layers using passive polarimetry, when astronomical starlight observations of known polarization were found to exhibit an excess in linear polarization, during desert dust events that reached the observational site. We revisit the previous observational methodology by targeting dichroic extinction of transmitted sunlight through extensive atmospheric dust layers utilizing a direct-sun polarimeter, which is capable to continuously monitor the polarization of elevated aerosol layers. In this study, we present the unique observations from the Solar Polarimeter (SolPol) for different periods within 2 years, when the instrument was installed in the remote monitoring station of PANGEA – the PANhellenic GEophysical observatory of Antikythera – in Greece. SolPol records polarization, providing all four Stokes parameters, at a default wavelength band centred at 550 nm with a detection limit of 10−7.

We, overall, report on detected increasing trends of linear polarization, reaching up to 700 parts per million, when the instrument is targeting away from its zenith and direct sunlight propagates through dust concentrations over the observatory. This distinct behaviour is absent on measurements we acquire on days with lack of dust particle concentrations and in general of low aerosol content. Moreover, we investigate the dependence of the degree of linear polarization on the layers’ optical depth under various dust loads and solar zenith angles and attempt to interpret these observations as an indication of dust particles being preferentially aligned in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Spectroradiometric measurements of direct solar irradiance traceable to the SI were performed by three spectroradiometer systems during a 3-week campaign in September 2022 at the Izaña Atmospheric Observatory (IZO) located on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. The spectroradiometers provided direct spectral irradiance measurements in the spectral ranges 300 to 550 nm (QASUME), 550 to 1700 nm (QASUME-IR), 300 to 2150 nm (BiTec Sensor, BTS), and 316 to 1030 nm (Precision Solar Spectroradiometer, PSR), with relative standard uncertainties of 0.7 %, 0.9 %, and 1 % for QASUME/QASUME-IR, the PSR, and the BTS respectively. The calibration of QASUME and QASUME-IR was validated prior to this campaign at Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) by measuring the spectral irradiance from two spectral irradiance sources, the high-temperature blackbody BB3200pg as a national primary standard and the tuneable laser facility TULIP. The top-of-atmosphere (ToA) solar irradiance spectra from the spectroradiometers were retrieved from direct solar irradiance measurements using zero-air-mass extrapolation during cloud-free conditions, which were then compared to the TSIS-1 Hybrid Solar Reference Spectrum (HSRS). These ToA solar spectra agreed to within 1 % for spectral ranges longer than 400 nm (for QASUME also at shorter wavelengths) in the spectral regions free of significant trace gas absorption and were well within the combined uncertainties over the full investigated spectral range. Using the results from the comparison with QASUME, the relative standard uncertainty of the TSIS-1 HSRS ToA solar spectrum in the spectral range 308 to 400 nm could be reduced from its nominal 1.3 % to 0.8 %, representing the relative standard uncertainty of the QASUME ToA solar spectrum in this spectral range. The spectral aerosol optical depth (AOD) retrieved from the solar irradiance measurements of these spectroradiometers using the TSIS-1 HSRS as the reference ToA solar spectrum agreed to within 0.01 in optical depth in nearly all common spectral channels of two narrowband filter radiometers belonging to the Global Atmosphere Watch Precision Filter Radiometer (GAW-PFR) network and Aerosol Robotic Network (AERONET). This study shows that it is now possible to retrieve spectral AOD over the extended spectral range from 300 to 1700 nm using solar irradiance measurements traceable to the SI using laboratory-calibrated spectroradiometers with similar quality to that from traditional Langley-based calibrated instruments. The main improvement to previous investigations is the recent availability of the high-spectral-resolution TSIS-1 HSRS with very low uncertainties, which provides the top-of-atmosphere reference for the spectral atmospheric transmission measurements obtained from ground-based solar irradiance measurements.