ClimateBits: Albedo

ClimateBits: Albedo thumbnail


Albedo is the fraction of incoming solar energy that is reflected back to space by the Earth system (atmosphere, ocean, land surfaces). Bright, white surfaces such as clouds and snow, have high albedos that approach 1.0. Dark surfaces, such as the ocean have low albedos. Albedo is critical for Earth's energy balance and climate. Human activity can impact Earth's albedo by changing the landscape and releasing small particles to the atmosphere. For more information, visit .

Length of dataset: 2:00

Notable Features

  • Reflected shortwave radiation varies with seasons, peaking at each pole during its hemisphere's summer when it receives the most sunlight.
  • Snow and ice have high albedos (~0.9) while the albedo of the ocean is generally low (< 0.1).
  • For temperatures to stay in the same range from year-to-year, incoming solar energy must equal outgoing energy, when averaged globally over a year.
  • Humans impact Earth's albedo and Earth's energy balance through industry, transportation and land use change.

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