Parameterizations for Narrowband and Broadband Albedo of Pure Snow, and Snow Containing Mineral Dust and Black Carbon

Monday, 15 December 2014
Cheng Dang, Richard Brandt and Stephen G Warren, University of Washington Seattle Campus, Seattle, WA, United States
The reduction of snow spectral albedo by black carbon(BC) and mineral dust, both alone and in combination, is computed using radiative-transfer modeling. Several size distributions of BC are examined; one is chosen to represent ambient soot. Many measurements of absorption spectra of mineral dust are critically reviewed as a basis for specifying dust properties for modeling. Two standard solar spectra are used: clear sky with the global average(insolation-weighted) solar zenith angle ~50 degrees, and the spectrum under an overcast cloud of optical thickness 11. The primary variables for the parameterizations are the radiatively-effective snow grain radius (r) and BC mass mixing ratio (C) in snow (and/or dust mixing ratio). A change of solar zenith angle can be mimicked by changing the snow grain radius.

Results are shown for all mass-mixing ratios (MMR) covering the full range from pure snow to pure soot and pure dust, and for snow grain radii from 5 to 2500 mm, to cover the range of possible grain sizes on planetary surfaces. To keep the parameterizations simple, only opaque homogeneous snowpacks are considered. Parameterizations are developed for three broad bands used in GCMs as well as several narrower bands; quadratic or cubic functions of log r and log C are generally adequate. The parameterizations are valid up to BC content of 10 ppm, which is needed for highly polluted snow, for example as found in northeast China.

A given MMR of BC causes greater albedo reduction in coarse-grained snow; BC and r can be combined into a single variable to compute the reduction of albedo relative to pure snow. For allwave albedo or visible albedo, a twofold increase of C results in the same change in BC-caused albedo reduction as multiplying r by 2.6. The near-IR albedo is less sensitive to BC content; there a twofold increase of C can be mimicked by a fivefold increase of r.

The albedo reduction by soot is less if the snow already contains dust, a common situation on mountain glaciers, for example in the Himalaya, and in the agricultural and grazing lands of North America and Central Asia. The effect of dust on snow albedo at visible wavelengths can be represented by an “equivalent BC” MMR, which is about a factor of 200 smaller than the dust MMR. Dust has little effect on the near-IR albedo because the near-IR albedo of pure dust is similar to that of pure snow.