Magnitude and sources of variation in albedo within an alpine tundra

D. G. Goodin, Scott Alan Isard

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Temporal and spatial variations of albedo in a mid-latitude alpine tundra are assessed in order to develop a classification of surface cover mapping units which is useful for surface climate simulations. The largest temporal changes in albedo result from alterations in moisture conditions at the tundra surface associated with snowpack ripening and precipitation. Surface albedo varies under high atmospheric transmission conditions (clear skies) from 0.168 to 0.205; under low transmission conditions (cloudy) there was little variation in the surface albedo with the solar zenith angle and the value of the albedo was approximately equal to that under clear skies when 45° >z > 30°. Spatial variation of albedo within commonly used alpine surface cover mapping units is large, due to the roughness and heterogeneity of the tundra surface. Small differences between mean albedo among vegetated units (mean values range from 0.15 to 0.19) and large ranges of values within units (average 25% of the mean value) preclude differentiation of the commonly used surface cover mapping units (except snow) on the basis of shortwave reflectivity. Aggregation of the vegetated surface cover units based on height and density of plants yields three classes (krummholz, dense low vegetation, and sparse low vegetation) for which differences between mean albedo among all combinations of pairs of mapping units (4 units, 3 vegetative plus snow) are statistically significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
JournalTheoretical and Applied Climatology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 1 1989

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science


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