Calculation of patterns of solar radiation within urban geometries

  • Rocio Carrasco Hernandez

Student thesis: Phd


ABSTRACTThe University of ManchesterRoberto Carrasco-Hernandez. PhD in Earth Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences.Calculation of patterns of solar radiation within urban geometries.30 May 2015The present work proposes methods to calculate street-level exposures to solar radiation. The methods comprise a combination of different software algorithms, online databases and real-time standard measurements of solar radiation. Firstly, the use of the free access image database "Google Street View" to reconstruct urban geometries is illustrated. Google Street View represents an enormous source of information readily available for its general use in the field of urban atmospheric studies. With the aid of existing software packages, it was possible to reconstruct urban geometries as projected fisheye images of the canyon upper-hemispheric view, and to model total-shortwave solar irradiance within an urban canyon. The models allowed the calculation of relative street-canyon irradiance as a fraction of that received under a full-sky view, depending on the visibility of the solar disc and the reduced sky view factor. The combined use of the ideal models with real-time data allows for the calculation of street-canyon irradiance under any cloud conditions. Validation of these techniques was obtained by comparing the calculations against in situ measurements of irradiance from a local street canyon.The existing software, however, does not allow the calculation of spectral irradiance, required for inferring, for example, the biological effects of solar radiation. The use of spectral radiative transfer software was explored to provide spectral irradiance, but commonly available models do not include the effects of horizon obstructions. The approach presented here followed the same general guidelines used to calculate total-shortwave irradiance. The spectral models required a spectral partitioning of global irradiance into direct and diffuse components, allowing the independent analysis of horizon obstruction effects on these components at each wavelength. To partition global irradiance, two equations were developed for the calculation of the diffuse-to-global irradiance ratio (DGR) under cloudless conditions: one based on simplified radiative transfer theory, and an empirical fit for local conditions. Afterwards, the effects of horizon obstructions were evaluated in combination with real-time measurements of unobstructed global spectral irradiance. A set of simulated obstructions were used to validate the models. Finally, it was observed that neglecting the anisotropic distribution of the diffuse component of solar radiation in these simple models could produce large uncertainties in some situations. A practical solution for including the anisotropy of diffuse radiation was proposed, requiring images from an unobstructed digital sky camera. The combination of tools described here will allow calculation of total and spectral global irradiance upon a flat horizontal surface whatever the local field of view. This is possible at any geographical location were the urban geometries can be described, either by manually obtaining digital photographs, or through the Google Street View database, and where there is a reasonably local standard measurement of radiation.
Date of Award31 Dec 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorAnn Webb (Supervisor) & Andrew Smedley (Supervisor)


  • Total-shortwave irradiance
  • Google Street View
  • Spectral irradiance
  • Street-level irradiance
  • Urban canyons

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