Benchmarking three low-cost, low-maintenance cloud height measurement systems and ECMWF cloud heights against a ceilometer

Abstract : Cloud height information is crucial for various applications. This includes solar nowcasting systems. Multiple methods to obtain the altitudes of clouds are available. In this paper, cloud base heights derived from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) and three low-cost and low-maintenance ground based systems are presented and compared against ceilometer measurements on 59 days with variable cloud conditions in southern Spain. All three ground based systems derive cloud speeds in absolute units of [m/s] from which cloud heights are determined using angular cloud speeds derived from an all-sky imager. The cloud speed in [m/s] is obtained from (1) a cloud shadow speed sensor (CSS), (2) a shadow camera (SC) or (3) derived from two all-sky imagers. Compared to 10-min median ceilometer measurements for cloud heights below 5000 m, the CSS-based system shows root-mean squared deviations (RMSD) of 996 m (45%), mean absolute deviations (MAD) of 626 m (29%) and a bias of −142 m (−6%). The SC-based system has an RMSD of 1193 m (54%), a MAD of 593 m (27%) and a bias of 238 m (11%). The two all-sky imagers based system show deviations of RMSD 826 m (38%), MAD of 432 m (20%) and a bias of 202 m (9%). The ECMWF derived cloud heights deviate from the ceilometer measurements with an RMSD 1206 m (55%), MAD of 814 m (37%) and a bias of −533 m (−24%). Due to the multi-layer nature of clouds and systematic differences between the considered approaches, benchmarking cloud heights is an extremely difficult task. The limitations of such comparisons are discussed. This study aims at determining the best approach to derive cloud heights for camera based solar nowcasting systems. The approach based on two all-sky imagers is found to be the most promising, having the overall best accuracy and the most obtained measurements.
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Contributeur : Magalie Prudon <>
Soumis le : vendredi 16 mars 2018 - 14:52:26
Dernière modification le : mercredi 7 août 2019 - 12:18:06

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Pascal Kuhn, Michael Wirtz, Niels Killius, Stefan Wilbert, Juan Luis Bosch, et al.. Benchmarking three low-cost, low-maintenance cloud height measurement systems and ECMWF cloud heights against a ceilometer. Solar Energy, Elsevier, 2018, pp.In Press. ⟨10.1016/j.solener.2018.02.050⟩. ⟨hal-01735899⟩

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