Quantifying Snow Albedo Radiative Forcing and Its Feedback during 2003–2016




Xiao, Lin
Che, Tao
Chen, Linling
Xie, Hongjie
Dai, Liyun

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Snow albedo feedback is one of the most crucial feedback processes that control equilibrium climate sensitivity, which is a central parameter for better prediction of future climate change. However, persistent large discrepancies and uncertainties are found in snow albedo feedback estimations. Remotely sensed snow cover products, atmospheric reanalysis data and radiative kernel data are used in this study to quantify snow albedo radiative forcing and its feedback on both hemispheric and global scales during 2003–2016. The strongest snow albedo radiative forcing is located north of 30◦N, apart from Antarctica. In general, it has large monthly variation and peaks in spring. Snow albedo feedback is estimated to be 0.18 ± 0.08 W·m(−2)·◦C(−1) and 0.04 ± 0.02 W·m(−2)·◦C(−1) on hemispheric and global scales, respectively. Compared to previous studies, this paper focuses specifically on quantifying snow albedo feedback and demonstrates three improvements: (1) used high spatial and temporal resolution satellite-based snow cover data to determine the areas of snow albedo radiative forcing and feedback; (2) provided detailed information for model parameterization by using the results from (1), together with accurate description of snow cover change and constrained snow albedo and snow-free albedo data; and (3) effectively reduced the uncertainty of snow albedo feedback and increased its confidence level through the block bootstrap test. Our results of snow albedo feedback agreed well with other partially observation-based studies and indicate that the 25 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) models might have overestimated the snow albedo feedback, largely due to the overestimation of surface albedo change between snow-covered and snow-free surface in these models.



snow albedo radiative forcing, snow albedo feedback, radiative kernel, remote sensing


Remote Sensing 9 (9): 883 (2017)


Earth and Planetary Sciences