© 2016 Royal Meteorological Society. A climate study of the incidence of downward surface global solar radiation (SSRD) in the Iberian Peninsula (IP) based primarily on ERA-40 reanalysis is presented. NCEP/NCAR reanalysis and ground-based records from several Portuguese and Spanish stations have been also considered. The results show that reanalysis can capture a similar inter-annual variability as compared to ground-based observations, especially on a monthly basis, even though annual ERA-40 (NCEP/NCAR) values tend to underestimate (overestimate) the observations with a mean relative difference of around 20Wm-2 (40Wm-2). On the other hand, ground-based measurements in Portuguese stations during the period 1964-1989 show a tendency to decrease until the mid-1970s followed by an increase up to the end of the study period, in line with the dimming/brightening phenomenon reported in the literature. Nevertheless, there are different temporal behaviours as a greater increase since the 1970s is observed in the south and less industrialized regions. Similarly, the ERA-40 reanalysis shows a noticeable decrease until the early 1970s followed by a slight increase up to the end of the 1990s, suggesting a dimming/brightening transition around the early 1970s, earlier in the south and centre and later in the north of the IP. Although there are slight differences in the magnitude of the trends as well as the turning year of the dimming/brightening periods, the decadal changes of ERA-40 fairly agree with the ground-based observations in Portugal and Spain, in contrast to most of the literature for other regions of the world, and is used in the climatology of the SSRD in the study area. NCEP/NCAR reanalysis does not capture the decadal variations of SSRD in the IP. The results show that part of the decadal variability of the global radiation in the IP is related to changes in cloud cover (represented in ERA-40).