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Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov • Vol.

2 (51) - 2009
Series II: Forestry • Wood Engineering • Agriculture and Food Engineering




Abstract: The paper presents a procedure for establishing some

peculiarities of the solar direct radiation in mountain regions, using the GIS
digital elevation models. There are given a set of formulas for calculating the
direct solar energy received by various surfaces as a function of the
incidence angle. Using the thematic maps with the slope gradient and aspect
of each raster cell, there were calculated the layers with the equivalent
latitudes and longitudes for the experimental watershed Valea Baii, located
south of Brasov, in the Piatra Mare Mountains. The differences between the
various areas within the watershed are illustrated by the area distribution on
classes of equivalent coordinates. These variations are obviously affecting
the local climate conditions and should be taken into account for
establishing climate change scenarios at tree stand level.

Key words: solar radiation, digital elevation models, equivalent latitude.

1. Introduction geology, land forms, climatic conditions,

soils, vegetation and certainly to the
The natural systems and their specific different land uses and their management
processes show an obvious spatial scenarios. The complex watershed model
variability and certainly a time variation. (realized in an analytical raster GIS) is
Their complexity imposes the system definitely a mathematical model, but it
mathematical modeling and process simu- differs from the classical ones by using
lation as major research methods and functions synthetically defined through
useful tools in the decision making process tables of values instead of analytical
concerning the natural resources mana- functions. These synthetical functions,
gement. We consider that their importance f(x,y), are the arrays, the layers of the GIS
will increase in the future, in the context of raster representation. The GIS modules
human induced environment modifi- enabling cartographic and especially 3D-
cations, such as the largely debated climate views lead to some similarities with the
changes, which will make inappropriate physical models, creating genuine
many management "golden rules" derived computer "virtual laboratories".
from past experience. The watershed models, comprise a large
The mountain watersheds are charac- number of layers, thematic maps, referring
terized by large data sets referring to to morphometry, cover etc. The core of

Silviculture Dept., Transilvania University of Braşov.
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov • Vol. 2 (51) - 2009 • Series II

these models is represented by the digital January 4th, when the Earth is closest to the
elevation model (DEM), an array (matrix) Sun and the lower one on July 5th, when it
with cell elevation values. In this way, the is furthest.
landforms could be accurately represented As passes the atmosphere, the solar
at “meso” (medium) level, but certainly, radiation suffers an extinction, through
the geomorphologic details (at micro scale) absorption and scattering, which depends
are stochastically distributed. The accurate on the transparency coefficient (inverse of
representation of the geomorphology the extinction coefficient) and the optical
makes a great difference, because the depth (or air mass). Consequently, the
landforms are the backbone of the site, intensity of the radiation on a surface
enabling us to take account of: the di- perpendicular to the beam, could be
fferent microclimatic conditions (depen- calculated using the equation expressing
dent of steepness, aspect, slope position the Beers-Bouguer Law:
-and also influenced by soil and cover 1
peculiarities), soil properties spatial .
cos( z ) (3)
I = I0 ⋅ p
variation (its depth, clay content etc. are
obviously varying along a hillslope), etc. where:
These digital models are useful for I- radiation intensity on normal surface
simulating a wide range of natural (perpendicular to the beam) [W/m2];
processes, because a watershed represents I0, solar ‘constant’,[W/m2];
a geosystem, a complex system integrating p, total transparency coefficient [-];
several related ecosystems, therefore a z – the zenith angle (the angle between the
basic unit for many geophysical and sun beam and the vertical line).
biological processes. Thus, the watershed The zenith angle (z), which is
models are useful for applications in complementary to the solar “height” angle
mountain climatology, in forest soils and (h0=900-z), could be calculated using the
site analysis, generally in mountain and following trigonometric relation:
forest ecology. cos(z) = sin(λ)sin(δ) +
cos(λ)cos(δ)cos(ω) (4)
2. Solar radiation calculations where: λ − the latitude of the location;
δ − the declination of the sun;
Solar radiation incident outside the ω −the hour angle.
earth's atmosphere is called extraterrestrial The declination of the sun is the angle
radiation [4]. On average the extra- between the earth's axis and the plane
terrestrial radiance, also called the ‘solar perpendicular to the line between the earth
constant’, is 1367 W/m2, but this value and the sun. An approximate formula for
slightly varies during the year. The the declination of the sun is given below:
extraterrestrial radiation for each Julian π 2π ⋅ ( 284 + n)
day (n, counted from January 1st) could be δ = 23.45 ⋅ ⋅ sin (5)
180 365
calculated, using the following formulas: The hour angle could be calculated for
Io= 1367 . [1.00011 + 0.034221 . cos(β) + any time moment, usually for any hour,
0.001280 . sin(β) + +0.000719 . cos(2β) after computing the solar time (Tsolar).
+ 0.000077 . sin(2β)]. [W/m2] (1) ω = π . (12 - Tsolar) / 12 (6)
β = 2πn / 365 . [radians] (2) By multiplying the radiation intensity, I
The higher values of the ‘solar constant’ [W/m2], on the normal surface, given by
are recorded in the boreal winter, around (3), with cos(θ), where θ is the angle
PACURAR V.: Mountain Areas Solar Radiation Spatial Distribution Analysis…

between the vertical and the perpendicular

to the considered surface, one can obtain inclination and aspect for each cell were
the values corresponding to an elementary produced and these are illustrated in the
surface having the inclination α and being Figure 1.
rotated γ degrees from the south-north For calculating the incoming radiation on
direction. a surface that is not horizontal, we can
consider that its inclination (α –slope
2. Equivalent latitude and longitude gradient) and the azimuth angle (γ− aspect)
determination for an experimental determine a latitude and longitude
watershed modification. These equivalent latitude
(eqlat) and longitude (eqlong) could be
In order to test the possibilities offered calculated using the relations (7) and (8)
by the Geographical Information Systems given below[1], [3].
for establishing the spatial distribution of By substituting the latitude and the
the direct solar radiation in a mountain longitude in formula (4), and operating
area we considered an experimental several simplifications we come to the
watershed, Valea Baii, located south of equation (9), which can be used for
Brasov, in the Piatra Mare Mountains for establishing the angle θ, and consequently
which the digital complex model [2], as the incoming solar radiation for any raster
described in the introduction, was realized. cell at a certain time moment (day and
Using the digital elevation model and the hour giving the δ and ω angles).
context operators, the layers with the slope
eqlat = arcsin[cos(α ) sin(λ ) + sin(α ) cos(λ ) cos(γ )] (7)
sin(α ) sin(γ )
eqlong = arctg (8)
cos(α ) cos(λ ) − sin(α ) sin(λ ) cos(γ )
cos(θ) = sin(δ)sin(λ)cos(α) - sin(δ)cos(λ)sin(α)cos(γ) + cos(δ)cos(λ)cos(α)cos(ω) +
+cos(δ)sin(λ)sin(α)cos(γ)cos(ω) + cos(δ)sin(α)sin(γ)sin(ω) (9)
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov • Vol. 2 (51) - 2009 • Series II

Fig. 1. Thematic maps of aspect and slope gradients for the Valea Băii watershed

Area Percentage (%)




< 10 10-20 20-30 30-40 40-50 50-60 60-70 70-80 80-90
Equivalent latitude

Area Percentage (%)











Equivalent longitude

Fig. 2. The classes distribution of equivalent latitude and longitude in V.Băii watershed

Using in equations (7) and (8) the The equivalent longitudes are
arrays of slope and aspect values, with indicating the “time change” in the solar
the Image Calculator module of Idrisi, radiation daily regime, respectively the
the equivalent latitude and longitude moment of maximum incoming energy.
were calculated for each cell. The From figure 2 results that the equivalent
percentage distribution of watershed longitudes are more evenly distributed
area on categories is shown in Figure 2. within the catchment. Anyway there are
more cells with positive corrections due
3. Conclusions to the general orientation of the
The equivalent latitudes should not be These parameters are useful for
considered as indicating climate con- comparing the meteorological data
ditions comparable with those at the measured at cell level and determining
same coordinates on Earth (raster cells the spatial variation pattern. On this
with low equivalent latitudes are not in basis it is possible to evaluate the impact
tropical conditions) but offer a sound of the possible climate changes at local
basis for analysing the differences level.
among various elementary areas. On the
hillslopes the solar beams are heating Acknowledgements
the land more than on similar horizontal
surface. In Figure 2 we can observe that The researches presented are part of
almost all the watershed is characterised the project PN II Idei, ID_206, funded
by equivalent latitudes lower than the by CNCSIS-UEFISCSU (contract
real geographic one (45o). 310/1.10.2007).
PACURAR V.: Mountain Areas Solar Radiation Spatial Distribution Analysis…

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Hydrology, 48, 1980, p. 71-82. 4. Stull, R.B.: Meteorology Today for
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de informaţii geografice în mo- Ed., Thomson Learning, Brooks
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