IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis

2.5.4 Radiative Forcing by Anthropogenic Surface Albedo Change: Black Carbon in Snow and Ice

The presence of soot particles in snow could cause a decrease in the albedo of snow and affect snowmelt. Initial estimates by Hansen et al. (2000) suggested that BC could thereby exert a positive RF of +0.2 W m–2. This estimate was refined by Hansen and Nazarenko (2004), who used measured BC concentrations within snow and ice at a wide range of geographic locations to deduce the perturbation to the surface and planetary albedo, deriving an RF of +0.15 W m–2. The uncertainty in this estimate is substantial due to uncertainties in whether BC and snow particles are internally or externally mixed, in BC and snow particle shapes and sizes, in voids within BC particles, and in the BC imaginary refractive index. Jacobson (2004) developed a global model that allows the BC aerosol to enter snow via precipitation and dry deposition, thereby modifying the snow albedo and emissivity. They found modelled concentrations of BC within snow that were in reasonable agreement with those from many observations. The model study found that BC on snow and sea ice caused a decrease in the surface albedo of 0.4% globally and 1% in the NH, although RFs were not reported. Hansen et al. (2005) allowed the albedo change to be proportional to local BC deposition according to Koch (2001) and presented a further revised estimate of 0.08 W m–2. They also suggested that this RF mechanism produces a greater temperature response by a factor of 1.7 than an equivalent CO2 RF, that is, the ‘efficacy’ may be higher for this RF mechanism (see Section This report adopts a best estimate for the BC on snow RF of +0.10 ± 0.10 W m–2, with a low level of scientific understanding (Section 2.9, Table 2.11).

2.5.5 Other Effects of Anthropogenic Changes in Land Cover

Anthropogenic land use and land cover change can also modify climate through other mechanisms, some directly perturbing the Earth radiation budget and some perturbing other processes. Impacts of land cover change on emissions of CO2, CH4, biomass burning aerosols and dust aerosols are discussed in Sections 2.3 and 2.4. Land cover change itself can also modify the surface energy and moisture budgets through changes in evaporation and the fluxes of latent and sensible heat, directly affecting precipitation and atmospheric circulation as well as temperature. Model results suggest that the combined effects of past tropical deforestation may have exerted regional warmings of approximately 0.2°C relative to PNV, and may have perturbed the global atmospheric circulation affecting regional climates remote from the land cover change (Chase et al., 2000; Zhao et al., 2001; Pielke et al., 2002; Chapters 7, 9 and 11).

Since the dominant aspect of land cover change since 1750 has been deforestation in temperate regions, the overall effect of anthropogenic land cover change on global temperature will depend largely on the relative importance of increased surface albedo in winter and spring (exerting a cooling) and reduced evaporation in summer and in the tropics (exerting a warming) (Bounoua et al., 2002). Estimates of global temperature responses from past deforestation vary from 0.01°C (Zhao et al., 2001) to –0.25°C (Govindasamy et al., 2001a; Brovkin et al., 2006). If cooling by increased surface albedo dominates, then the historical effect of land cover change may still be adequately represented by RF. With tropical deforestation becoming more significant in recent decades, warming due to reduced evaporation may become more significant globally than increased surface albedo. Radiative forcing would then be less useful as a metric of climate change induced by land cover change recently and in the future.