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Photochem Photobiol Sci. 2006 Mar;5(3):343-52. Epub 2006 Jan 23.

Geographical differences in erythemally-weighted UV measured at mid-latitude USDA sites.

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National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, NIWA Lauder, Central Otago, New Zealand.


UV measurements from instruments maintained by USDA at 16 mid-latitude sites were analysed to investigate geographic differences. Fifteen of the sites are in North America, and one is in New Zealand. The instruments measure erythemally weighted UV radiation, and the results are presented in terms of UV Index (UVI). The focus of this work is on data from 2003, but the main results are also shown for years 2002 and 2004. In the North American sites, the peak UVI values increase by approximately 15% between latitudes 47 degrees N and 40 degrees N, and they show an increase with altitude of approximately 15% in the first kilometer, but much smaller rates of increase above that level. Peak UV intensities in the New Zealand site (45 degrees S, alt. 0.37 km) exceed those at comparable latitudes and altitudes in North America by 41 +/- 5%, and are more comparable with those over 1 km higher and 5 degrees closer to the equator. The number of observations on these days that exceeded various thresholds of UVI showed similar patterns. Furthermore, the number of days in which the peak values exceeded various thresholds also showed similar patterns, with the number of extreme values in New Zealand being anomalously high. For example, the only sites in North America where UVI exceeded 12 were at the high altitude sites in Colorado and Utah, for which there were 53 days, 6 days and 2 days respectively at the 3.2 km, 1.6 and 1.4 km sites. By contrast, the peak UVI at Lauder (0.37 km) exceeded 12 on 17 days. Lauder was the only site under 1 km altitude where the UVI exceeded 11 on a regular basis (48 days). The optical depths at Lauder were significantly lower than at all North American sites. These, together with the lower ozone amounts and the closer Earth-Sun separation in summer all contribute to the relatively high UV intensities at the New Zealand site. Other sites in New Zealand show similar increases compared with corresponding sites in North America, and the differences persist from year to year. The contrast in UV between New Zealand and North America is similar to that observed previously between New Zealand and Europe. During winter months, the UVI in New Zealand is not particularly high, giving a larger summer/winter contrast in UVI, which may be important from a health perspective.

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