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Observed changes in the albedo of the Arctic sea-ice zone for the period 1982–2009


The surface albedo of the Arctic sea-ice zone is a crucial component in the energy budget of the Arctic region1,2. The treatment of sea-ice albedo has been identified as an important source of variability in the future sea-ice mass loss forecasts in coupled climate models3. There is a clear need to establish data sets of Arctic sea-ice albedo to study the changes based on observational data and to aid future modelling efforts. Here we present an analysis of observed changes in the mean albedo of the Arctic sea-ice zone using a data set consisting of 28 years of homogenized satellite data4. Along with the albedo reduction resulting from the well-known loss of late-summer sea-ice cover5,6, we show that the mean albedo of the remaining Arctic sea-ice zone is decreasing. The change per decade in the mean August sea-ice zone albedo is −0.029±0.011. All albedo trends, except for the sea-ice zone in May, are significant with a 99% confidence interval. Variations in mean sea-ice albedo can be explained using sea-ice concentration, surface air temperature and elapsed time from onset of melt as drivers.

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Figure 1: Examples of land-masked CLARA-A1-SAL August monthly mean albedo products.
Figure 2: The evolution of the averaged composite and sea-ice zone albedo through the dataset coverage.
Figure 3: Monthly sea-ice albedo over the Arctic, 1982–2009.


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The authors would like to thank the CM SAF project of EUMETSAT for financial support. We would also like to thank Wavelab authors at Stanford University for the use of their software. We thank the National Snow and Ice Data Center for the sea-ice concentration data. We thank the NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory for the provision of National Centers for Environmental Prediction—Department of Energy Reanalysis 2 data. We also thank T. Markus for the provision of sea-ice melt-onset data. The CM SAF team at the Deutscher Wetterdienst is thanked for the processing of the CLARA-A1-SAL data set. K. Andersson at VTT is thanked for creating the SAL code. Finally, T. Pulkkinen at Aalto University is thanked for advice and discussions.

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A.R. is the responsible scientist for the CLARA-A1-SAL data set. He carried out the analysis and wrote most of the manuscript. V.L. was the original creator of the SAL algorithm and he contributed parts of the manuscript text. T.M. continued the development of the SAL algorithm by adding elements for the sea-ice albedo derivation. T.M. also planned the work for this study and contributed parts of the manuscript text.

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Correspondence to Aku Riihelä.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Riihelä, A., Manninen, T. & Laine, V. Observed changes in the albedo of the Arctic sea-ice zone for the period 1982–2009. Nature Clim Change 3, 895–898 (2013).

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