Impact of Shrubs on Winter Surface Albedo and Snow Specific Surface Area at a Low Arctic Site: In Situ Measurements and Simulations

Belke-Brea, M. ; Domine, F. ; Barrere, Mathieu ; Picard, G. ; Arnaud, L.

Année de publication
<p align=justify>Erect shrubs in the Arctic reduce surface albedo when branches protrude above the snow and modify snow properties, in particular specific surface area (SSA). Important consequences are changes in the land surface-atmosphere energy exchange and the increase of snow melting in autumn, possibly inducing reduced soil thermal insulation and in turn permafrost cooling. Near Umiujaq (56.5°N, 76.5°W) in the Canadian low Arctic where dwarf birches (Betula glandulosa) are expanding, spectral albedo (400-1080 nm) under diffuse light and vertical profiles of SSA were measured in November and December 2015 at four sites: three with protruding branches and one with only snow. At the beginning of the snow season (8 November), shrub-induced albedo reductions were found to be wavelength dependent and as high as 55% at 500 nm and 18% at 1000 nm, which, integrated over the measurement range (400-1080 nm), corresponds to 70 W m−2 of additional absorbed energy. The impact of shrubs is not just snow darkening. They also affect snow SSA in multiple ways, by accumulating snow with high SSA during cold windy precipitation and favoring SSA decrease by inducing melting during warm spells. However, the impact on the radiation budget of direct darkening from shrubs likely dominates over the indirect change in SSA. Spectral albedo was simulated with a linear mixing equation (LME), which fitted well with observed spectra. The average root-mean-square error was 0.009. We conclude that LMEs are a suitable tool to parameterize mixed surface albedo in snow and climate models.</p>
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