Measurement and modeling of Light-absorbing Particles in Snow and Ice and their climatic and hydrological impact

Yun Qian

Atmospheric Sciences & Global Change Scientist, TL
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Abstract for Weekly Colloquium on Thursday, April  6, 2017 at 4 pm in Harshbarger 206 ~ Refreshments at 3:45 pm

Measurement and modeling of Light-absorbing Particles in Snow and Ice and their climatic and hydrological impact

Light absorbing particles (LAP, e.g., black carbon, brown carbon, and dust) from anthropogenic and natural sources influence water and energy budgets of the atmosphere and snowpack in multiple ways. In addition to their effects associated with atmospheric heating by absorption of solar radiation and interactions with clouds, LAP in snow and ice can reduce the surface reflectance, which is likely to accelerate the snow aging process and further reduces snow albedo and increases the speed of snowpack melt. LAP in snow and ice (LAPSI) has been identified as one of major forcings affecting climate change, e.g. in the fourth and fifth assessment reports of IPCC. However, the uncertainty level in quantifying this effect remains very high. In this talk, I will document various technical methods of measuring LAPSI and review the progress made in measuring the LAPSI in Arctic, Tibetan Plateau and other mid-latitude regions. I will also report the progress in modeling the concentrations, albedo reduction, radiative forcing, and climatic and hydrological impact of LAPSI at global and regional scales, and highlight several modeling studies conducted at PNNL. Finally, I will discuss a few gaps in this area and propose paths forward for reducing the uncertainties in quantifying the impact of LAPSI on global and regional climate and the hydrological cycle.