Main content area

Effect of land cover change on snow free surface albedo across the continental United States

Wickham, J., Nash, M.S., Barnes, C.A.
Global and planetary change 2016 v.146 pp. 1-9
forests, grasslands, land cover, radiative forcing, shrubs, snow, time series analysis, United States
Land cover changes (e.g., forest to grassland) affect albedo, and changes in albedo can influence radiative forcing (warming, cooling). We empirically tested albedo response to land cover change for 130 locations across the continental United States using high resolution (30m-×-30m) land cover change data and moderate resolution (~500m-×-500m) albedo data. The land cover change data spanned 10years (2001−2011) and the albedo data included observations every eight days for 13years (2001−2013). Empirical testing was based on autoregressive time series analysis of snow free albedo for verified locations of land cover change. Approximately one-third of the autoregressive analyses for woody to herbaceous or forest to shrub change classes were not significant, indicating that albedo did not change significantly as a result of land cover change at these locations. In addition, ~80% of mean differences in albedo arising from land cover change were less than ±0.02, a nominal benchmark for precision of albedo measurements that is related to significant changes in radiative forcing. Under snow free conditions, we found that land cover change does not guarantee a significant albedo response, and that the differences in mean albedo response for the majority of land cover change locations were small.