Sagan et al.1 have suggested that the cumulative impact of anthropogenic albedo changes may have contributed to global climate changes in the past and that its effect may be continuing. Using a statistical dynamic climate model (SDM) with more realistic surface albedo changes than previously used2, we have computed the combined impact of desertification of the Sahara and deforestation of the tropical rain forest. While the model computed a surface cooling of 0.6 K for the Northern Hemisphere, the global mean of ∼0.2 K was substantially less than the 1 K suggested by Sagan et al.1. We infer that man's cumulative impact on planetary surface albedo over the past few thousand years has had a small and probably undetectable effect on global climate.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Subscribe to this journal
Receive 51 print issues and online access
$199.00 per year
only $3.90 per issue
Rent or buy this article
Prices vary by article type
Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout
Similar content being viewed by others
Sagan, C., Toon, O. B. & Pollack, J. B. Science 206, 1363 (1979).
Charney, J. G., Stone, P. H. & Quirk, W. J. Science 187, 434 (1975).
Ellsaesser, H. W., MacCracken, M. C., Potter, G. L. & Luther, F. M. Q. Jl R. met. Soc. 102, 655 (1976).
Potter, G. L., Ellsaesser, H. W., MacCracken, M. C. & Luther, F. M. Nature 258, 697 (1975).
MacCracken, M. C. thesis, Univ. California (1968).
London, J. A Study of the Atmospheric Heat Balance. Final Rep. Contract AF19(122)-165 (Research Division. College of Engineering, New York University, 1957).
Potter, G. L., Ellsaesser, H. W., MacCracken, M. C. & Luther, F. M. in GARP Ser. Publ. No. 22 (WMO, Geneva, 1979).
Cess, R. D. J. atmos. Sci. 33, 1831 (1976).
Budyko, M. I. Climate and Life (Academic, New York, 1974).
Ramanathan, V. J. atmos. Sci. 34, 1855 (1977).
Schneider, S. H., Washington, W. M. & Chervin, R. M. J. atmos. Sci. 35, 2207 (1978).
Henderson-Sellers, A. Nature 279, 786 (1979).
Roads, J. O. J. atmos. Sci. 35, 753 (1978).
Bjerknes, J., Allison, L. J., Kreins, E. R., Godshall, F. A. & Warnecke, G. Bull. Am. met. Soc. 50, 313 (1969).
About this article
Cite this article
Potter, G., Ellsaesser, H., MacCracken, M. et al. Albedo change by man: test of climatic effects. Nature 291, 47–49 (1981). https://doi.org/10.1038/291047a0
This article is cited by
Study of the desertification index based on the albedo-MSAVI feature space for semi-arid steppe region
Environmental Earth Sciences (2019)
The enduring link between forest cover and rainfall: a historical perspective on science and policy discussions
Forest Ecosystems (2018)
Multitemporal analysis of cropland transition in a climate-sensitive area: a case study of the arid and semiarid region of northwest China
Regional Environmental Change (2014)
Theoretical and Applied Climatology (1996)
Climatic Change (1995)