Changes in Snow Albedo Resulting from Snow Darkening Caused by Black Carbon

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jessica Engels1,2, Silvia Kloster1 and Quentin Bourgeois3,4, (1)Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany, (2)International Max Planck Research School on Earth System Modelling, Hamburg, Germany, (3)Center for Climate Systems Modeling, Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland, (4)Institute of Environmental Engineering, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland
We investigate the potential impact of snow darkening caused by pre-industrial and present-day black carbon (BC) emissions on snow albedo and subsequently climate. To assess this impact, we implemented the effect of snow darkening caused by BC emitted from natural as well as anthropogenic sources into the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology Earth System Model (MPI-M ESM). Considerable amounts of BC are emitted e.g. from fires and are transported through the atmosphere for several days before being removed by rain or snow precipitation in snow covered regions. Already very small quantities of BC reduce the snow reflectance significantly, with consequences for snow melting and snow spatial coverage.

We implemented the snow albedo reduction caused by BC contamination and snow aging in the one layer land surface component (JSBACH) of the atmospheric general circulation model ECHAM6, developed at MPI-M. For this we used the single-layer simulator of the SNow, Ice, and Aerosol Radiation (SNICAR-Online (Flanner et al., 2007); http://snow.engin.umich.edu) model to derive snow albedo values for BC in snow concentrations ranging between 0 and 1500 ng(BC)/g(snow) for different snow grain sizes for the visible (0.3 - 0.7 µm) and near infrared range (0.7 - 1.5 µm). As snow grains grow over time, we assign different snow ages to different snow grain sizes (50, 150, 500, and 1000 µm). Here, a radius of 50 µm corresponds to new snow, whereas a radius of 1000 µm corresponds to old snow. The deposition rates of BC on snow are prescribed from previous ECHAM6-HAM simulations for two time periods, pre-industrial (1880-1889) and present-day (2000-2009), respectively.

We perform a sensitivity study regarding the scavenging of BC by snow melt. To evaluate the newly implemented albedo scheme we will compare the modeled black carbon in snow concentrations to observed ones. Moreover, we will show the impact of the BC contamination and snow aging on the simulated snow albedo. The potential climate impact will be analyzed in terms of the radiative forcing caused by the snow darkening induced changes in surface albedo.