State of Environment

Indicator 10 - Daily broad-band ultra-violet radiation observations using biologically effective UVR detectors

Index: Description | Data | Custodian evaluation | Related resources | Parameters


Indicator Definition
Daily measurements of solar Ultra-Violet radiation at Casey and Davis stations, reported in units of standard erythemal dose (SED).

Responsible organisation

organisation logo

Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority


Theme area


Indicator type


Criteria the indicator satisfies

The following 11 out of 15 criteria

1. Serve as a robust indicator of environmental change
2. Reflect a fundamental or highly-valued aspect of the environment or an important environmental issue
3. Be either national in scope or applicable to regional environmental issues of national significance
4. Provide an early warning of potential problems
5. Be capable of being monitored to provide statistically verifiable and reproducible data that shows trends over time and, preferably, apply to a broad range of environmental regions
6. Be scientifically credible
7. Be easy to understand
9. Be cost-effective
10. Have relevance to policy and management needs
12. Where possible and appropriate, facilitate community involvement
13. Contribute to the fulfillment of reporting obligations under international agreements

For details of indicators, see the State of Environment Bibliography entries 16336 and 16337

Date input

Daily measurements

Monitoring location

Rationale For Indicator Selection
Stratospheric ozone depletion began in the mid-1970's and is likely to persist until mid this century or beyond. Ozone depletion allows more short wavelength, biologically damaging, UVB radiation (280-320 nm) to reach the Earth's surface. Thus, organisms living beneath depleted ozone are likely to be impacted by enhanced UVB irradiances. Enhanced UVB irradiances can increase the incidence of skin cancer, cataract eye disease and even immune system suppression in humans. It can also reduce the growth, productivity and survival of marine organisms and can cause changes in the structure and function of Antarctic marine communities. This indicator provides a direct measure of the extent and magnitude to which UV irradiances are enhanced and provides vital data against which biological responses to UV exposure can be normalised.

Living organisms are sensitive to UV radiation because vital biological molecules such as DNA, lipids and proteins absorb strongly in these wavelengths. DNA, with a peak absorption at 260 nm, is particularly sensitive, and is liable to mutation. DNA damage has been extensively studied in microbial and mammalian systems where UV-induced damage produces two distinct effects, mutagenesis and toxicity. In humans the impact of DNA damage manifests mainly as skin cancer. DNA damage in plants has been the subject of relatively few studies (Britt, 1999; Taylor et al, 1996; Vornarx et al, 1998) with most research examining impacts of UV-B on growth or photosynthesis, predominantly using crop plants. Terrestrial plants are potentially very vulnerable to UV-B induced DNA damage. Firstly the levels of UV-B are higher on land than in water. In addition plants rely on light for photosynthesis and are therefore adapted to absorb high levels of solar radiation (and the associated, harmful UV-B). Defence mechanisms to protect against damaging high energy UV radiation are also found in plants. Compounds such as flavonoids, and carotenoids absorb UV radiation and act as sun-screens, reducing the levels of UV-B at the molecular level. Research has been limited in Antarctic plants but there are clear differences in protective pigment levels in 3 Antarctic mosses with Grimmia antarctici (an endemic species) showing low levels of these pigments compared to other cosmopolitan species (Robinson et al 2001). This suggests that the endemic species may be more vulnerable to UV-B damage. Studies have recently commenced to investigate DNA-damage in these plants. Work by Skotnicki and coworkers (Skotnicki et al 2000) which shows high levels of somatic mutation could also be a result of UV-B exposure.

Design and Strategy For Indicator Monitoring Program
Spatial Scale: The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency take broadband in situ observations at Antarctic mainland stations (Casey, Davis and Mawson) and at Macquarie Island.

Frequency: Continuous measurements

Measurement Technique: Broad band UV radiometry (use of biometer or biologically effective UVR detector). Total UVR measurements are also made using an Eppley TUV radiometer (responds across 290 to 400 nm wavelength range). Spectral measurements have also been made at Davis station. Readings are taken every ten minutes and the total SED's calculated for the day.

Research Issues
A need exists for a comprehensive monitoring network of broadband measurements, complemented by a small baseline network of precision spectral measurements across the nation. Such a network is being planned by the Bureau of Meteorology to link directly with the basic national meteorological observations. Validation of satellite data with surface based measurements (ARPANSA) over Australia for the period 1979-1992 has been carried out (Udelhofen et al 1999) and a follow up is planned for 1992-2000. Validation of satellite data and surface UVR measurements over the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic is planned between the Antarctic Division, ARPANSA and Dan Lubin at UCLA.

Data Description
10 minute averages of weighted UVR (CIE 1987 spectral effectiveness).

The data in the files is :

Date, time, total solar radiation (counts), gain 1, Total UVR (counts), gain 2, UVB(counts), gain 3, biometer , temperature.

Main Detector is Solar Light UVBiometers (SL501)

Detector 1 - Eppley total solar radiation pyranometer.
Detector 2 - Eppley total UVR (TUV) radiometer - covers wavelength range 290 to 400 nm.
Detector 3 - International Light UVB radiometer - covers wavelength range 290 to 315 nm.
Detector 4 - Solar Light UVBiometer (SL501) - approximates CIE erythemal spectral effectiveness.

The 2nd last column is the biometer in MEDs/hr (1 MED is 200 J/m2 effective weighted with the CIE (1987) erythemal response) and the last column is temperature inside the detector.

The 3 other detectors, with outputs in counts, are the total solar, Total UVR (TUV) and the UVB.

Data are stored as zipped up .dat files.

The fields in this dataset are:
Total Solar Radiation (counts)
Gain 1
Total UVR (counts)
Gain 2
Gain 3


23-July-1996 to 31-July-2015
Number of data points

To view or download any of the data, you must be logged in

Custodian evaluation

27 May 2002

Measured UVE in SEDs (July to June) and maximum UV Index (UVI*) and the date on which it occurred for Casey and Davis.

Year Casey


1997/98 5500 11.5 29 Nov 4920 9.6 27 Nov
1998/99 5730 13.7 26 Nov 6100 10.5 18 Nov
1999/00 5503 11.5 22 Nov 6170 11.4 15 Dec
2000/01 5240 9.0 22 Dec 4840 8.8 3 Nov
2001/02 4894# 12.6 2 Nov 5044 12.6 22 Nov

1 SED is 100 J.m-2when weighted with the CIE 1987 erythemal response
# 2001/02 data is incomplete ? data after Jan 31 yet to be processed.

1) The differences in yearly totals are due to weather and ozone variations.

2) Unlike mid-latitude sites, where the UV Index maxima are usually in January, Casey and Davis generally have their UV Index maxima in late November to early December.

3) Each spring there are numerous instances when anomalously low ozone over the locations causes the biometers to register increases in surface UVE (see Figures 9 and 10).

4) While Casey generally has slightly higher UV Indices than Davis, Davis has larger daily totals of UVE. This may perhaps have to do with the locations themselves (local geography, topology?).

5) With the exception of 2000 for Davis, there has been a general trend of increasing maximum UV Index. The trend in the maximum UV Index is less clear for Casey although 2000 was also an exception there. It is clear from the Figures that this trend is due largely to the ozone depletion episodes evident at the stations. For example for the summer of 2000/01 the low UV Index at both stations is clearly related to higher ozone. For early Dec 2001/02 ozone is already in excess of 320 DU whereas in early Dec 2001/02 the ozone is still below 200 DU.

6) The results for daily totals for both sites also show 2000/01 is less than the other years. However, daily totals of total UVR data (290 ?400 nm) show less of a difference between the various years.

7) There is insufficient biometer data for Macquarie Island (at this stage less than a year) to draw any conclusions from the data.

8 Nov 2002

Condition scale - 5
1 - the environment degraded to the point where rehabilitation is impossible
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
7 - the environment is pristine, in perfect condition, no anthropogenic influences
State of Knowledge scale - 5
1 - Poor
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
7 - Excellent

For definitions of the Scale categories, consult the Explanation of the Status Categories

Related resources

Project 1138 - Climatology and Biological Impacts of Antarctic UV Radiation
Project 1233 - Effects of UV radiation on community establishment: a global perspective
Project 2276 - Determination of the ultraviolet radiation environment at the Australian Antarctic Stations (Now Project 3106)
Scientific Bibliography 17233 - Roy CR, Gies HP and Elliott G. (1989) The ARL Solar Ultraviolet Radiation Measurement Programme. Transactions of the Menzies Foundation 'The Ozone Layer and Health' 15:71-76
Scientific Bibliography 17234 - Roy CR and Gies HP. (1989) Ozone Depletion and its Calculated Effect on Solar UVB Radiation Levels for some Australian Cities. Ch 3 in 'Health Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion' NHMRC, AGPS Canberra, p 37-69,1989.
Scientific Bibliography 17235 - Roy CR, Gies HP and Elliott G. (1990) Ozone Depletion. Nature Vol 347 p 235-236, 1990.
Scientific Bibliography 17236 - Roy CR and Gies HP, M Ilyas Ed (1991) Solar Ultraviolet Radiation: Measurement Techniques and the Australian Network. In: Ozone Depletion: Implications for the Tropics, Uni Malaysia and UNEP, 1991, pp 114-125.
Scientific Bibliography 17237 - Roy CR and Gies HP. (1992) Results from an Australian Solar UVR Measurement Network and Implications for Radiation Protection Policy. Proceedings of the 8th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association, Montreal May 17-22, 1992, Vol.1 pp 759-762.
Scientific Bibliography 17238 - CR Roy and HP Gies. (1993) Measurements of solar ultraviolet radiation in the Southern Hemisphere. In: Proceedings of the International Symposium "Environmental UV Radiation and Health Effects", Munich, Germany, May 4-6, 1993, pp 71-78.
Scientific Bibliography 17239 - RL McKenzie, M Kotkamp, G Seckmeyer, R Erb, CR Roy, HP Gies and SJ Toomey. (1993) First Southern Hemisphere Intercomparison of Measured Solar UV Spectra. Geophys Res Let, Vol.20 pp 2223-2226, 1993.
Scientific Bibliography 17240 - CR Roy, HP Gies, DW Tomlinson and D Lugg. (1994) Effects of Ozone Depletion on the ultraviolet radiation environment at the Australian Stations in Antarctica. In Ultraviolet Radiation in Antarctica: Measurements and Biological Effects. American Geophysical Union Antarctic Research Series, Vol.62 pp 1-15, 1994.
Scientific Bibliography 17241 - HP Gies, CR Roy, SJ Toomey and D Tomlinson. (1994) The ARL Solar UVR measurement network: Calibration and Results. Proceedings SPIE Vol.2282 pp 274-284, Ultraviolet Technology V, San Diego July 26-27, 1994.
Scientific Bibliography 17242 - G Seckmeyer, B Mayer, G Bernhard, RL McKenzie, PV Johnston, M Kotkamp, CR Booth, T Lucas, T Mestechkina, CR Roy, HP Gies and D Tomlinson. (1995) Geographical differences in the UV measured by intercompared spectroradiometers. Geophys Res Let Vol.22 pp 1889-1892, 1995.
Scientific Bibliography 17243 - CR Roy, HP Gies and S Toomey. (1995) The solar UV radiation environment: measurement techniques and results. J Photochem Photobiol B: Biology Vol.99 pp 21-27, 1995.
Scientific Bibliography 17244 - CR Roy, HP Gies and SJ Toomey. (1996) Climatology of UVB and ozone variations and the global solar UV-Index. Proceedings of the 9th International Congress of the International Radiation Protection Association, Vienna April 14-19 1996, Vol.1 pp 353-360.
Scientific Bibliography 17245 - C Roy, H Gies and S Toomey. (1996) Monitoring UV-B at the earth's surface. Cancer Forum Vol.20 pp 173-179, 1996.
Scientific Bibliography 17246 - D Lubin, EH Jensen and P Gies. (1998) Global Surface Ultraviolet Radiation Climatology from TOMS and ERBE data. J Geophys Res Vol.103 pp 26,061-91, 1998.
Scientific Bibliography 17247 - CR Roy, HP Gies, DL Lugg, S Toomey and DW Tomlinson. (1998) The measurement of solar ultraviolet radiation Mutation Research 422: 7-14, 1998
Scientific Bibliography 17248 - PM Udelhofen, P Gies, C Roy and WJ Randel. (1999) Surface UV radiation over Australia, 1979-1992: Effects of ozone and cloud cover changes on variations of UV radiation. J Geophys Res 104: 19135-19159, 1999.
Scientific Bibliography 17249 - L Lemus-Deschamps, L Rikus and P Gies. (1999) The operational Australian Ultraviolet Index forecast 1997. Meteorological Applications 6: 241-251, 1999.
Scientific Bibliography 17250 - HP Gies, CR Roy, S Toomey and D Tomlinson. (1999) Ambient Solar UVR, Personal Exposure and Protection. J Epidemiology, 9: S115-S121, 1999.
SOE Indicator 9 - Daily records of total column ozone at Macquarie Island
SOE Indicator 72 - Windmill Islands terrestrial vegetation dynamics


The properties link can be used to view details of the parameters measured for this indicator.

Parameter Name Unit of measure Properties
Daily UV flux SED Properties