Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 23-35



  • Thomas C. GrenfellAffiliated withDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Washington


Albedo: The fraction of incident solar radiative energy flux, or irradiance, reflected and scattered upward from a surface integrated over the solar spectrum from 300 to approximately 3,000 nm.

Spectral Albedo. The ratio of upwelling to incident irradiance versus the wavelegth of the radiation.


Heat exchange over snow and ice is strongly affected by the interaction of solar radiation with the surface. A quantitative understanding of this interaction is critical in treating a wide variety of problems involving both the state and evolution of the surface, the subsurface layers, and the overlying atmosphere. The concept of surface albedo has been introduced as an essential tool for specifying the surface energy balance. The albedos of surfaces across the Arctic and Antarctic as well as snow-covered and glaciated areas at lower latitudes have been an ongoing topic of observations and modeling for many years. Pioneering work has been carried out by ...

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