Albedo Drop on the Greenland Ice Sheet: Relative Impacts of Wet and Dry Snow Processes

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Justin Chen, Hanover High School, Hanover, NH, United States and Chris Polashenski, USA CRREL, Hanover, NH, United States
The energy balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) is strongly impacted by changes in snow albedo. MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) observations indicate that the GIS albedo has dropped since the early part of this century. We analyze data from the MODIS products MOD10A1 for broadband snow albedo and MOD09A1 for surface spectral reflectance since 2001 to better explain the physical mechanisms driving these changes. The MODIS products are filtered, and the data is masked using microwave-derived surface melt maps to isolate albedo changes due to dry snow processes from those driven by melt impacts. Results show that the majority of recent changes in the GIS albedo - even at high elevations - are driven by snow wetting rather than dry snow processes such as grain metamorphosis and aerosol impurity deposition. The spectral signature of the smaller changes occurring within dry snow areas suggests that grain metamorphosis dominates the albedo decline in these regions.