1Finnish Meteorological Institute, P.O. Box 1627, 70211 Kuopio, Finland
2Universities Space Research Association, Columbia, MD, USA
3NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, USA
4Center for International Climate and Environmental Research–Oslo (CICERO), Oslo, Norway
5Sigma Space Corporation, Lanham, MD, USA
6Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, 208016 Kanpur, India
7Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA
Abstract. The diurnal variability of aerosol optical depth (AOD) can be significant, depending on location and dominant aerosol type. However, these diurnal cycles have rarely been taken into account in measurement-based estimates of aerosol direct radiative forcing (ADRF) or aerosol direct radiative effect (ADRE). The objective of our study was to estimate the influence of diurnal aerosol variability on the top of the atmosphere ADRE estimates. By including all the possible AERONET sites, we wanted to assess the influence on global ADRE estimates, while by focusing also in more detail on some selected sites of strongest impact, our goal was to also see the possible impact regionally. We calculated ADRE with different assumptions about the daily AOD variability: taking the observed daily AOD cycle into account and assuming diurnally constant AOD. Moreover, we estimated the corresponding differences in ADREs, if the single AOD value for the daily mean was taken from the the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra or Aqua overpass times, instead of accounting for the true observed daily variability. The mean impact of diurnal AOD variability on 24 h ADRE estimates, averaged over all AERONET sites, was rather small and it was relatively small even for the cases when AOD was chosen to correspond to the Terra or Aqua overpass time. This was true on average over all AERONET sites, while clearly there can be much stronger impact in individual sites. Examples of some selected sites demonstrated that the strongest observed AOD variability (the strongest morning afternoon contrast) does not typically result in a significant impact on 24 h ADRE. In those cases, the morning and afternoon AOD patterns are opposite and thus the impact on 24 h ADRE, when integrated over all solar zenith angles, is reduced. The most significant effect on daily ADRE was induced by AOD cycles with either maximum or minimum AOD close to local noon. In these cases, the impact on 24 h ADRE was typically around 0.1–0.2 W m−2 (both positive and negative).