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Last updated date: 28th Feb 2024
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Albedo Definition

Albedo is a calculation of diffuse solar radiation reflected from the total solar radiation, and it's determined on a range of zero to 1, with 0 corresponding to a black body that absorbs every incident radiation and 1 corresponding to a body that reflects almost every incident radiation.

The ratio of radiosity to irradiance (flux each unit of area) obtained by a surface is known as surface albedo. The proportion reflected is defined by the spectral and angular spread of solar radiation approaching the surface of the Earth, as well as the characteristics of the surface itself. These variables change with the composition of the atmosphere, geographical region, and time.

Albedo Effect Definition: Albedo effect has been the directional integration of reflectance across all solar angles in a particular time, whereas bi-hemispheric reflectance is measured for a specific angle of incidence (that is, for a particular location of the Sun). The temporal resolution can vary between seconds to regular, weekly, or yearly averages (as determined by flux measurements).

The albedo effect involves a wide range of spectrum of solar radiation unless it is provided for a particular wavelength (spectral albedo). It is frequently provided for the range wherein the majority of solar energy enters the surface (between 0.3 and 3m) due to measurement constraints. 

Such spectrum includes visible light (0.4–0.7 m), that describes why surface albedo with such a low albedo (– for example, trees) look dark and surfaces with a large albedo look bright (e.g., snow reflects major radiation).

Albedo is a key concept in astronomy, climatology, and sustainable development (for example, in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) programme for building sustainability rating). Because of cloud cover, the Earth's average albedo from the upper atmosphere, or planetary albedo, is 30–35 percent, although it varies greatly locally from across the surface due to various geological and environmental properties.

Johann Heinrich Lambert's work Photometria, published in 1760, was the first to use the word albedo in optics.

Terrestrial Albedo Meaning

In visible light, albedo ranges from around 0.9 for new snow to almost 0.04 for charcoal, including some of the darkest materials. Deeply shadowed cavities will reach the black body's active albedo of zero.

The ocean surface, like most trees, does have a low albedo when viewed from afar, while desert areas were some of the highest albedos across landforms. The majority of land areas have an albedo of 0.1 to 0.4. Earth's average albedo has been about 0.3. Due to the contribution of clouds, it's much greater than for the seas. NASA's MODIS instruments on deck the Terra and Aqua satellites, as well as the CERES instrument on the Suomi NPP and JPSS, are used to measure the Earth's surface albedo on a regular basis. Since satellites could only calculate the amount of reflected radiation in one direction, rather than all directions, a mathematical model is being used to convert a sample collection of satellite reflectance measurements into predictions of bi-hemispheric reflectance and directional-hemispherical reflectance.

The bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF), that explains how well the reflectance of a given surface varies depending on the observer's view angle and the solar angle, is used in such calculations. BDRF may aid in the conversion of reflectance observations into albedo.

Examples of Terrestrial Albedo Effects

1. Illumination:

Apart from situations in which a variation in illumination causes a change in the Earth's surface at that spot, albedo is indeed not dependent solely on illumination as increasing the amount of incident light proportionally affects the quantity of reflected light (for example, through melting of reflective ice).

2. Insolation Effects:

The degree of albedo temperature effects is determined by the quantity of albedo as well as the extent of local insolation (solar irradiance); high albedo areas in the arctic and antarctic regions seems cold because of low insolation, while high albedo areas in the Sahara Desert, that also have a significantly higher albedo, would be warmer due to increased insolation.

3. Albedo–Temperature Feedback:

A snow–temperature input occurs when the albedo of a region changes due to snowfall. A film of snowfall raises local albedo, which reflects sunlight and cools the region. In theory, if no outdoor temperature changes, the increased albedo and lower temperature will maintain the entire snow and invite more snowfall, deepening the snow–temperature response.

4. Snow:

Snow albedo varies dramatically, varying from 0.9 for freshly fallen snow to 0.4 for snow melt and even as low as 0.2 for dirty snow. Ice albedo in Antarctica measures somewhat more than 0.8. As a marginally snow-covered region warms, the snow melts, reducing the albedo and thereby causing more snowmelt as the snowpack absorbs additional radiation.

5. Solar Photovoltaic Effects:

The electrical energy production of solar photovoltaic systems may be affected by albedo. Distinctions in the spectrally weighted albedo of solar photovoltaic techniques are dependent on hydrogenated amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) and crystalline silicon (c-Si) compared to the standard spectral-integrated albedo predictions, for instance, show the effects of a spectrally sensitive albedo. According to research, the effects can be as high as 10%. The study was recently expanded to include the consequences of spectral bias due to specular reflectivity of 22 frequently occurring surface materials, as well as the effects of albedo on the output of seven photovoltaic materials, including three common photovoltaic system topologies: commercial flat rooftops, industrial, and residential pitched-roof installations.

Astronomical Albedo

Satellites, Planets, and minor planets like asteroids have albedos that can be used to conclude a lot regarding their properties. A significant portion of the astronomical field of photometry is the research of albedos, whose reliance on lighting angle, wavelength, and time variation. Most of what we understand about small and distant objects which cannot be clarified by telescopes arises from studying the albedos. The absolute albedo, for instance, will reveal the surface ice composition of bodies in the outer Solar System, while the variation of albedo through phase angle reveals regolith properties, and exceptionally high radar albedo indicates the high metal concentrations in asteroids.

With an albedo of 0.99, Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, does have one of the highest recorded albedos of just about anybody throughout the Solar System. The albedos of several tiny items in the outer Solar System and asteroid belt are as small as 0.05. The albedo of a standard comet nucleus is 0.04. A basic and intensely space weathered layer containing certain organic compounds is assumed to be the source of this kind of dark surface.

The Moon's overall albedo is estimated to be about 0.14, but it is highly directional and non-Lambertian, with a serious opposition impact. Even though reflectance characteristics of regolith surfaces on airless Solar System bodies vary from that of the terrestrial terrains, these are common.

FAQs on Albedo

1. Which Kind of Snow Has the High Albedo?

Ans. Fresh snow reflects the most light and therefore has the high albedo, while black soil does have the lowest albedo as it absorbs the most solar radiation.

2. What Causes Forests to Have a Low Albedo?

Ans. The earth's atmosphere (albedo of earth) and oceans have a low albedo since they are dark in colour. They absorb a large portion of the solar energy that reaches them and only reflect a small portion of it. The albedo of forests is poor, about 0.15. The colour of snow and ice, on the other hand, is very light.

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