Solar surface radiation data of high quality is essential for the appropriate monitoring and analysis of the Earth's radiation budget and the climate system. Further, they are crucial for the efficient planning and operation of solar energy systems. However, well maintained surface measurements are rare in many regions of the world and over the oceans. There, satellite derived information is the exclusive observational source. This emphasizes the important role of satellite based surface radiation data. Within this scope, the new satellite based CM-SAF SARAH (Solar surfAce RAdiation Heliosat) data record is discussed as well as the retrieval method used. The SARAH data are retrieved with the sophisticated SPECMAGIC method, which is based on radiative transfer modeling. The resulting climate data of solar surface irradiance, direct irradiance (horizontal and direct normal) and clear sky irradiance are covering 3 decades. The SARAH data set is validated with surface measurements of the Baseline Surface Radiation Network (BSRN) and of the Global Energy and Balance Archive (GEBA). Comparison with BSRN data is performed in order to estimate the accuracy and precision of the monthly and daily means of solar surface irradiance. The SARAH solar surface irradiance shows a bias of 1.3 \(W/m^2\) and a mean absolute bias (MAB) of 5.5 \(W/m^2\) for monthly means. For direct irradiance the bias and MAB is 1 \(W/m^2\) and 8.2 \(W/m^2\) respectively. Thus, the uncertainty of the SARAH data is in the range of the uncertainty of ground based measurements. In order to evaluate the uncertainty of SARAH based trend analysis the time series of SARAH monthly means are compared to GEBA. It has been found that SARAH enables the analysis of trends with an uncertainty of 1 \(W/m^2/dec\); a remarkable good result for a satellite based climate data record. SARAH has been also compared to its legacy version, the satellite based CM-SAF MVIRI climate data record. Overall, SARAH shows a significant higher accuracy and homogeneity than its legacy version. With its high accuracy and temporal and spatial resolution SARAH is well suited for regional climate monitoring and analysis as well as for solar energy applications.
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