Decadal to seasonal variability of Arctic sea ice albedo

Peer Reviewed

Agarwal S, Moon W, & Wettlaufer JS

Geophysical Research Letters 38, Issue 20, pages L20504, 2011, 10.1029/2011GL049109.

A controlling factor in the seasonal and climatological evolution of the sea ice cover is its albedo α. Here we analyze Arctic data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) Polar Pathfinder and assess the seasonality and variability of broadband albedo from a 23 year daily record. We produce a histogram of daily albedo over ice covered regions in which the principal albedo transitions are seen; high albedo in late winter and spring, the onset of snowmelt and melt pond formation in the summer, and fall freezeup. The bimodal late summer distribution demonstrates the combination of the poleward progression of the onset of melt with the coexistence of perennial bare ice with melt ponds and open water, which then merge to a broad peak at α ≳ 0.5. We find the interannual variability to be dominated by the low end of the α distribution, highlighting the controlling influence of the ice thickness distribution and large-scale ice edge dynamics. The statistics obtained provide a simple framework for model studies of albedo parameterizations and sensitivities.

Keywords: Albedo, Sea ice
Categories: Arctic, Natural Science