Earth’s Albedo, Radiative Forcing and Climate Change

  • G. Thomas Farmer
  • John Cook


Albedo is defined as the degree of reflectivity of a substance. Albedo values are given for common Earth substances. Radiative forcing of the climate system is introduced and the relative forcings by principal substances are given. Earth’s energy is received mainly from the Sun and is received at the top of the atmosphere. This solar radiation cascades through the atmosphere which acts as a transparent window through which most of the radiation is allowed to pass. The Sun radiates energy as a blackbody that appears very bright due to its very high temperature. Most matter acts as a blackbody and radiates energy dependent on its temperature. The Earth’s moon is a relatively low temperature blackbody and we see its radiation as moonlight. The changing climate (global warming) is due mainly to the cascading energy scenario but the climate is also responsive to energy within the Earth.


Clouds Albedo Reflectivity Radiative Forcing Fourier GTP Temperature Terawatts Contrails Blackbody Deforestation Orographic rainfall 

Additional Readings

  1. Ahrens, C. D. (2006). Meteorology today. An introduction to weather, climate, and the environment (8th ed.). Belmont: Thompson, Brooks/Cole.Google Scholar
  2. Gurneym, R. J., et al. (1993). Atlas of satellite observations related to global change. Great Britain: Cambridge University Press. 470 ppGoogle Scholar
  3. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report. (2007). Changes in atmospheric constituents and radiative forcing, pp. 133–134. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Landsberg, P. T. (1990). Bosons: black-body radiation. Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics (p 208 ff) (Reprint of Oxford University Press 1978 ed.). Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-66493-7. Mineola, NY, USAGoogle Scholar
  5. Roman, M. O., et al. (2010). Assessing the coupling between surface albedo derived from MODIS and the fraction of diffuse skylight over spatially-characterized landscapes. Remote Sensing of Environment, 114, 738–760. doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2009.11.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Shine, K. P., et al. (2003). An alternative to radiative forcing for estimating the relative importance of climate change mechanisms. Geophysical Research Letters, 30(20), 2047. doi: 10.1029/2003GL018141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • G. Thomas Farmer
    • 1
  • John Cook
    • 2
  1. 1.Farmer EnterprisesLas CrucesUSA
  2. 2.School of PsychologyThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia

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