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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters



  • albedo
  • sea ice
  • solar heat

Index Terms

  • 0750 - Sea ice
  • 0764 - Energy balance
  • 1621 - Cryospheric change

Paper in Press


Albedo Evolution of Seasonal Arctic sea ice

Key Points
  • During the melt season the albedo of seasonal ice is less than multiyear
  • Seasonal ice absorbs and transmits more sunlight to ocean than multiyear
  • Albedo evolution of seasonal sea ice has 7 phases


Donald K. Perovich

Christopher Mark Polashenski

There is an ongoing shift in the Arctic sea ice cover from multiyear ice to seasonal ice. Here we examine the impact of this shift on sea ice albedo. Our analysis of observations from four years of field experiments indicates that seasonal ice undergoes an albedo evolution with seven phases; cold snow, melting snow, pond formation, pond drainage, pond evolution, open water, and freezeup. Once surface ice melt begins, seasonal ice albedos are consistently less than albedos for multiyear ice resulting in more solar heat absorbed in the ice and transmitted to the ocean. The shift from a multiyear to seasonal ice cover has significant implications for the heat and mass budget of the ice and for primary productivity in the upper ocean. There will be enhanced melting of the ice cover and an increase in the amount of sunlight available in the upper ocean.

Received 19 February 2012; accepted 23 March 2012.

Citation: Perovich, D. K. and C. M. Polashenski (2012), Albedo Evolution of Seasonal Arctic sea ice, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL051432, in press.