6th International Conference Energy & Meteorology: Abstract Submission

Spatial variability of incident solar radiation in Ireland and the UK linked to large-scale atmospheric pressure patterns: implications for solar energy generation. (718)

João Correia 1 2 , Frank McDermott 1 2 , Conor Sweeney 1 3
  1. UCD Energy Institute, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  2. UCD School of Earth Sciences, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  3. UCD School of Mathematics and Statistics, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Objective & Background

Decarbonisation of global energy production in the future implies an increased role for intermittent renewable energy sources.  Wind energy will continue to make a very significant contribution, but solar PV capacity is expected to grow substantially in the coming years. A better understanding of the spatio-temporal patterns of variability in the solar energy resource is increasingly urgent, particularly in the context of its links to large-scale atmospheric teleconnection patterns such as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), the East Atlantic (EA) and Scandinavian (SCAND) patterns.

This work focuses on the spatial relationships between the solar short-wave (SW) radiation across Ireland and Britain, and the dominant Euro-Atlantic atmospheric pressure teleconnections, such as the NAO, EA and SCAND patterns.



Multiple observational and gridded solar irradiance reanalysis datasets (global: ERA-Interim, MERRA-2, with spatial resolution of ~78 and 50 km, respectively; regional: MÉRA, 2.5 km) covering several decades of solar irradiance data were compared with the variance indices of the atmospheric patterns over the same time-period (1982-2015), for the winter season (December to February).

In addition, to evaluate the solar variability in terms of power metrics, we take advantage of the high-resolution solar irradiance data to convert it to solar power generated.


Principal Findings

The zonal (west-east) seesaw behaviour in the correlation pattern between the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index and SW radiation across the UK is more complex than reported previously [1], and it involves several zonal changes in the NAO-SW correlations (multiple ‘seesaws’) across both Ireland and the UK mainland. We interpret this as being the result of the interaction between the predominant moisture-bearing airflows, controlled by large-scale atmospheric patterns, and local topography which, through uplift and rainout mechanisms, ends up producing different irradiance conditions between the windward and the leeward side of hills and mountains. This process, which also contributes to producing significant differences between solar resources on the west and east side of both Ireland and Britain can be explored for solar-solar or solar-wind energy generation balancing on a range of spatial scales.  



  • SW radiation variability in the region is strongly linked to large-scale atmospheric patterns;
  • Correlation patterns emerge across the landmasses, with gradients expressed predominantly on a zonal (west-east) direction. These patterns are more spatially complex than reported previously, and are linked to land surface elevation.
  • The spatially complementary solar anomalies in response to large-scale atmospheric motion may offer opportunities to partially balance solar electricity production on a local to regional scale.


  1. Colantuono, G., Wang, Y., Hanna, E., Erdélyi, R. (2014). Signature of the North Atlantic Oscillation on British solar radiation availability and PV potential: The winter zonal seesaw. Solar Energy, 107, 210–219. ttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.solener.2014.05.045