Articles | Volume 8, issue 6
Research article
11 Dec 2014
Research article |  | 11 Dec 2014

Assessing spatio-temporal variability and trends in modelled and measured Greenland Ice Sheet albedo (2000–2013)

P. M. Alexander, M. Tedesco, X. Fettweis, R. S. W. van de Wal, C. J. P. P. Smeets, and M. R. van den Broeke

Abstract. Accurate measurements and simulations of Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) surface albedo are essential, given the role of surface albedo in modulating the amount of absorbed solar radiation and meltwater production. In this study, we assess the spatio-temporal variability of GrIS albedo during June, July, and August (JJA) for the period 2000–2013. We use two remote sensing products derived from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), as well as outputs from the Modèle Atmosphérique Régionale (MAR) regional climate model (RCM) and data from in situ automatic weather stations. Our results point to an overall consistency in spatio-temporal variability between remote sensing and RCM albedo, but reveal a difference in mean albedo of up to ~0.08 between the two remote sensing products north of 70° N. At low elevations, albedo values simulated by the RCM are positively biased with respect to remote sensing products by up to ~0.1 and exhibit low variability compared with observations. We infer that these differences are the result of a positive bias in simulated bare ice albedo. MODIS albedo, RCM outputs, and in situ observations consistently indicate a decrease in albedo of −0.03 to −0.06 per decade over the period 2003–2013 for the GrIS ablation area. Nevertheless, satellite products show a decline in JJA albedo of −0.03 to −0.04 per decade for regions within the accumulation area that is not confirmed by either the model or in situ observations. These findings appear to contradict a previous study that found an agreement between in situ and MODIS trends for individual months. The results indicate a need for further evaluation of high elevation albedo trends, a reconciliation of MODIS mean albedo at high latitudes, and the importance of accurately simulating bare ice albedo in RCMs.