Effects of black carbon and Icelandic dust on snow albedo, melt and density

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Title: Effects of black carbon and Icelandic dust on snow albedo, melt and density
Author: Meinander, Outi
Belongs to series: Finnish Meteorological Institute Contributions 125
ISSN: 0782-6117
ISBN: 978-951-697-896-6
Abstract: Light-absorbing impurities in the cryosphere are of hydrological, environmental and climatic importance. The wet and dry deposition of black carbon (BC), organic carbon (OC), and dust particles affect the optical properties and melt of snow and ice. In the Arctic region, the climatic effects are amplified, and surface albedo feedback is often cited as the main contributor. The aim of this thesis is to fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge of the effects of BC, OC, and Icelandic dust on snow in the European Arctic through a series of field and laboratory experiments and an analysis of the resulting data, including modeling. The thesis presents a new hypothesis on the snow density effects of light-absorbing impurities, an important quantity for climate modeling and remote sensing. Three processes are suggested to explain the proposed ”BC density effect”. Experimental results show that dirty snow releases melt water quicker than cleaner snow. The albedo of natural seasonally melting snow in Sodankylä, north of the Arctic Circle, is found to be asymmetric with respect to solar midday, thus indicating a change in the properties of the snow. The radiative transfer modeling results show that the observed solar zenith angle asymmetry results in a 2–4 % daily error for satellite snow albedo estimates. Surface albedo model results indicate that the biggest snow albedo changes due to BC are expected in the ultraviolet (UV) part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The albedo of natural seasonal snow measured in Sodankylä, is found to be lower than expected. Solar UV and visible (VIS) albedo values of 0.6–0.8 in the accumulation period and 0.5–0.7 during melting are observed. The low albedo values are explained to be due to large snow grain sizes up to ∼3 mm in diameter, meltwater surrounding the grains and increasing the effective grain size, and absorption caused by impurities in the natural snow (87 ppb BC and 2894 ppb OC). The BC contents of the surface snow layer at the Sodankylä Arctic Research Center, Finland, is higher than expected. Increased BC in spring time suggests surface accumulation of hydrophobic BC during snow melt. Some of the high BC concentrations are related to anthropogenic soot transported from the Kola Peninsula, Russia. The origin of OC can be anthropogenic or natural, and may include pollen, seeds, lichens, natural litter or microorganisms that reside in snow and ice. Iceland is the most important Arctic dust source, but a scientific assessment of its impacts on the cryosphere is currently unavailable and scientific results are urgently needed to investigate the role of Icelandic dust in Iceland and elsewhere, in the past, present and future. Experimental results on Icelandic volcanic ash show that a thin layer increases the snow and ice melt but that an ash layer exceeding a certain critical thickness causes insulation. The Arctic results of this thesis have relevance to the assessment of Arctic climate change, including modeling and satellite applications.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/169074
Date: 2016-11
Subject: arctic
black carbon

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