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Spatial variability of the sea-ice radiation budget and its effect on aggregate-area fluxes

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The spatial and temporal variability of surface, cloud and radiative properties of sea ice are examined using new satellite-derived products. Downwelling short- and longwave fluxes exhibit temporal correlation over about 180 days, but cloud optical depth and cloud fraction show almost no correlation over time. The spatial variance of surface properties is shown to increase much less rapidly than that of cloud properties. The effect of small-scale inhomogeneity in surface and cloud properties on the calculation of radiative fluxes at ice- and climate-model gridscales is also investigated. Annual mean differences between gridcell fluxes computed from average surface and cloud properties and averages of pixel-by-pixel fluxes are 9.46% for the downwelling shortwave flux and −7.04% for the longwave flux. Therefore, using mean surface and cloud properties to compute surface radiative fluxes in a gridcell results in an over-estimate of the shortwave flux and an underestimate of the longwave flux. Model sensitivity studies show that such biases may result in substantial errors in modeled ice thickness. Clearly, the sub-gridscale inhomogeneity of surface and atmospheric properties must be considered when estimating aggregate-area fluxes in sea-ice and climate models.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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