Matching Features Between Land Surface and Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)


Matching Features Between Land Surface and Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)

Two models, GFS (left) and ECMWF (right), forecast for the 25th April a High pressure enclosed over Greenland matching exactly its size.

Total Square What do you see

The isobars indicating atmospheric pressure gradients are matching Greenland’s land surface almost like isolines of a topographic map.

Square What do you seeSo, which features or mechanisms can be projecting its  influence into the atmosphere drawing the shape of the High Pressure above?

Actual state of the Arctic and Greenland

At this part of the year Greenland is surrounded by Sea ice, principally on its North and West sides (see following images).

Daily Sea Ice Extent These images show the extent of ocean covered by ice at any concentration greater than 15 percent for a given day. This snapshot of current ice conditions may be missing data (missing data appears as gray dots or areas). The median line (orange in images) shows a typical ice extent for that day based on data from 1981 through 2010. The area around the North Pole that the satellite does not image is assumed to be covered by ice at more than 15 percent concentration. Daily Sea Ice Concentration These images show the percentage of ice cover for each roughly 25-kilometer-square data cell that is more than 15 percent covered by ice on a given day. The daily images may be missing data (missing data appears as dark grey dots or areas). The area around the North Pole that is not imaged by the satellite is excluded from the area because there is no way to know what the concentration is within this area.

The heights can be used to estimate surface temperatures since height of a pressure surface is related to the mean temperature of the air below it but surface temperatures can not be used to estimate height of a pressure surface unless we consider convection.

Convection occurs when air near a surface is heated by radiation and conduction, expands
and begins to rise, being lighter than the surrounding air. To replace the rising air, cooler air is drawn in from above the surrounding surface. Convection requires a surface to irradiate heat. Since Greenland is mostly surrounded by Ice that can not be the answer for the High pressure above it since Ice melt when absorbs heat.

The only mechanism for Ice to incorporate Energy in a system without melting is by reflection, which is called Albedo.

Albedo

Albedo is a non-dimensional, unitless quantity that indicates how well a surface reflects solar energy. Albedo (α) varies between 0 and 1. Albedo commonly refers to the “whiteness” of a surface, with 0 meaning black and 1 meaning white. A value of 0 means the surface is a “perfect absorber” that absorbs all incoming energy. Absorbed solar energy can be used to heat the surface or, when sea ice is present, melt the surface. A value of 1 means the surface is a “perfect reflector” that reflects all incoming energy.

Albedo generally applies to visible light, although it may involve some of the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum. You understand the concept of low albedo intuitively when you avoid walking barefoot on blacktop on a hot summer day. Blacktop has a much lower albedo than concrete because the black surface absorbs more energy and reflects very little energy.

Sea ice has a much higher albedo compared to other earth surfaces, such as the surrounding ocean. A typical ocean albedo is approximately 0.06, while bare sea ice varies from approximately 0.5 to 0.7. This means that the ocean reflects only 6 percent of the incoming solar radiation and absorbs the rest, while sea ice reflects 50 to 70 percent of the incoming energy. The sea ice absorbs less solar energy and keeps the surface cooler.

Snow has an even higher albedo than sea ice, and so thick sea ice covered with snow reflects as much as 90 percent of the incoming solar radiation. This serves to insulate the sea ice, maintaining cold temperatures and delaying ice melt in the summer. After the snow does begin to melt, and because shallow melt ponds have an albedo of approximately 0.2 to 0.4, the surface albedo drops to about 0.75. As melt ponds grow and deepen, the surface albedo can drop to 0.15. As a result, melt ponds are associated with higher energy absorption and a more rapid ice melt.

Questions and answers

I can consider two possible scenarios. The models are accurate or not. But then, some major questions raise here.

One would be if the models overestimate the difference in albedo between Snow and surrounding Sea Ice when they simulate their effect over atmospheric pressure at the sea level. Consequently the mapping of the extent of Land Being Covered by Snow marks the margins for the High pressure to develop.

But, considering that the models are accurate, several major questions arise:

  • The impact of Land Cover is strong enough to define the conditions driving the evolution of Atmospheric Processes (in this case High Pressure) involved in Atmospheric Circulation. That brings more evidences about the influence of continentality, and the activities carried inland, over  the atmospheric circulation.
  • The level of transformation on Land Use and Cover required to have an impact over atmospheric processes can be as small as the differences triggered in albedo between Ice cover and Snow cover.

Commonly reported Albedo values from different surface types.

Surface              Albedo value %
Soil                                  4
Forest                              8
Gravel road                   12
Bare soil                         17
Green grass                   25
Sand                               40
Concrete                         55
Snow                               85

Synergistic interactions exist between:

  • Land Cover and Use with
  • Albedo and Surface Temperature
  • which are linked with Atmospheric Pressure developments,
  • which are related with Atmospheric Composition and Behaviour
  • and all of them are dependent on Energy flows and gradients.

This post is part of a bigger piece of work looking into the synergistic interactions and the relevance of the role played by Land Cover over Atmospheric Circulation and the Meteorological Processes associated. The situation over Greenland seems to be a perfect example pointing out the existence of such strong interactions and synergy as much as it has also been observed in the behaviour of the atmospheric circulation over the Amazones.

There are many factors interacting throughout feedback loops in our climate, and here, I have just looked at the impact generated by alterations in albedo. This example highlights the necessity for not underestimating the relevance from spread changes in Land Cover and Use across all continents changing the albedo properties of surfaces, and their potential impact  over the global atmospheric circulation.

Feel free to add your comments.

—- xxx —-

(This post is part of a more complex piece of independent research. I believe that the hypothesis that I have presented in previous posts in this blog (here, here and here) could help to understand present and possible future scenarios in atmospheric circulation. However, this is an assessment based on observation which needs to be validated throughout open discussion and data gathering. So please feel free to incorporate your thoughts and comments in a constructive manner.

Any scientist working in disciplines related with the topics that I treat in my blog knows how to judge the contribution that my work could potentially add to the state of knowledge. Since I am in transition looking for a position in research, if you are one of those scientists, by just acknowledging any value you might see from my contribution would not only make justice to my effort as independent researcher, but ultimately, it will help me to enhance my chances to find a position with resources to further develop my work.

If you feel like sharing this post I would appreciate to have a reference about the place or platform, by private or public message, in order for me to have the opportunity to join the debate and be aware of the repercussion which might generate d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com)

For anybody interested in the posts related with this discussion here I leave you those more relevant in chronological order (there are comments bellow some of them. Please check them out):

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About Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.

Citing This Site "Title", published online "Month"+"Year", retrieved on "Month""Day", "Year" from http://www.diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com. By Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD. More guidance on citing this web as a source can be found at NASA webpage: http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/bibliography/citations#! DOIs can be generated on demand by request by email: d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com for those publications missing at the ResearchGate profile vinculated with this project. Author´s profile: Bachelor in General Biology, Masters degree "Licenciado" in Environmental Sciences (2001, Spain). PhD in Aerobiology (2007, UK). Lived, acquired training and worked in Spain, UK, Germany and Poland. I have shared the outcome from my previous work as scientific speaker in events held in those countries as well as in Switzerland and Finland. After couple of years performing research and working in institutions linked with environmental research and management, I find myself in a period of transition searching for a new position or funding to support my research. In the present competitive scenario, instead of just moving my cv and wait for my next opportunity to arrive, I have decided to invest also my energy and time in opening my own line of research showing what I am capable of. The value of the data and the original nature of the research presented in this blog has proved to be worthy of consideration by the scientific community as well as for publication in scientific journals. However, without a position as member of an institution, it becomes very challenging to be published. I hope that this handicap do not overshadow the value of my work and the intellectual rights represented by the license of attribution attached are respected and considered by the scientist involved in this line of research. Any comment and feedback aimed to be constructive is welcome. In this blog I publish pieces of research focused on addressing relevant environmental questions. Furthermore, I try to break the barrier that academic publications very often offer isolating scientific findings from the general public. In that way I address those topics which I am familiar with, thanks to my training in environmental research, making them available throughout my posts. (see "Framework and Timeline" for a complete index). At this moment, 2017, I am living in Spain with no affiliation attachments. Free to relocate geographically worldwide. If you feel that I could be a contribution to your institution, team and projects don´t hesitate in contact me at d.fdezsevilla (at) gmail.com or consult my profile at LinkedIn, ResearchGate and Academia.edu. Also, I'd appreciate information about any opportunity that you might know and believe it could match with my aptitudes. The conclusions and ideas expressed in each post as part of my own creativity are part of my Intellectual Portfolio and are protected by Intellectual Property Laws. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial conditions. In citing my work from this website, be sure to include the date of access. (c)Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD, 2017. Filling in or Finding Out the gaps around. Publication accessed 20YY-MM-DD at http://www.diegofdezsevilla.wordpress.com/
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