Changing Albedo and Sea Ice
What is Albedo?
This video explains albedo - the concept that the brightness of the Earth system (atmosphere, ocean, land surfaces) determines how much incoming solar energy is immediately reflected back to space. Reflected shortwave energy and land albedo products demonstrate the seasonal and geographic variability of this critical climate process.
Discuss Sea Ice
- Show students the following video from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
- As the video showed, Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum each September. This graph shows the average monthly Arctic sea ice extent each September since 1979, derived from satellite observations. Answer the following questions about the graph.
Answer the following questions about the graph.
- Which year has had the lowest recorded Arctic sea ice?
- Which year had the highest recorded Arctic sea ice?
- What is the overall trend in the annual Arctic sea ice minimum?
- What factors might explain the trend in the annual Arctic sea ice minimum?
The Link between Albedo and Sea Ice
Answer the following questions about the short animation.
- What do you notice about the areas of increased solar radiation?
- What do you notice about the areas of decreased sea ice?
- What is the connection between the two images?
Have students summarize the link between albedo and sea ice as an exit ticket.
- NASA Climate Bits; Albedo on Youtube
- NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio
- NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio: Link between Sea-Ice Fraction and Absorbed Solar Radiation over the Arctic Ocean
- Arctic Sea Ice
- The Blue Marble data is courtesy of Reto Stockli (NASA/GSFC).
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