BES Solar Radiation Monitoring Station at Ashburton
Gordon M. Heisler, USDA Forest Service
The BES Solar Radiation Monitoring Station (BES SRMS) began recording hourly averages of UVB radiation, photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), and total solar radiation in May 2001. The instruments, atop a water surge tower at the Ashburton Water Filtration Plant on Druid Park Drive, have a full view of the sun and sky. Initially, data is being collected by visits with a laptop computer, but a long-term goal is to make data available by Internet to make it more useful in education. One eventual purpose of the BES SRMS will be to provide a reference for measurements made in the shade of trees and buildings in Baltimore. Because UVB radiation is outside of the visible spectrum of light, knowing how much of it we get can be difficult, especially in partial shade, and models need to be developed to predict UVB. Another use of BES SRMS data will be to explore the differences between UVB over Baltimore compared to more rural locations.
Besides causing sunburn, UVB radiation in large doses leads to human diseases including skin cancers and eye cataracts. UVB also has beneficial effects such as being essential for the body to make vitamin D and deactivating harmful bioaerosols. Some plants are damaged by excess UVB radiation, particularly if the ratio of UVB to PAR becomes too high. Total solar radiation provides the energy for evaporation of water and is therefore related to total water use and supply in the city. The solar radiation data will be shared with the city Water Department.