Reflecting on Earth’s albedo
The amount of sunlight being absorbed or reflected by Earth is one of the driving forces for weather and climate. Satellites are providing this information with unprecedented accuracy.
The reflecting power of a surface is known as ‘albedo’. Bright snow and ice have a high albedo, meaning they reflect solar radiation back into space, while green areas like forests and fields have a much lower albedo.
The lower the albedo, the more energy from the Sun is absorbed.
Changes in Earth’s surfaces can therefore affect how much of the Sun’s energy is absorbed – such as a decrease in snow cover or an increase in the area used for agriculture. If the amount of energy absorbed changes, this has an effect on Earth’s energy budget and ultimately affects our weather and climate.
To help scientists build better simulations of weather and climate, ESA’s GlobAlbedo project is using satellite data to map changes in Earth’s reflectivity.
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