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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 30 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 30 Aug 2019

Review status
A revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal TC.

Snow albedo sensitivity to macroscopic surface roughness using a new ray tracing model

Fanny Larue1, Ghislain Picard1, Laurent Arnaud1, Inès Ollivier1, Clément Delcourt1, Maxim Lamare1,2, François Tuzet1,2, Jesus Revuelto2, and Marie Dumont2 Fanny Larue et al.
  • 1UGA/CNRS, Institut des Géosciences et de l'Environment (IGE), Grenoble, 38100, France
  • 2Univ. Grenoble Alpes, Université de Toulouse, Météo-France, CNRS, CNRM, Centre d'Études de la Neige, Grenoble, France

Abstract. Most models simulating snow albedo assume a flat and smooth surface, neglecting surface roughness. However, the presence of macroscopic roughness leads to a systematic decrease in albedo due to two effects: 1) photons are trapped in concavities (multiple reflection effect) and, 2) when the sun is low, the roughness sides facing the sun experience an overall decrease in the local incident angle relative to a smooth surface, promoting higher absorption, whilst the other sides has weak contributions because of the increased incident angle or because they are shadowed (called the effective angle effect here). This paper aims to quantify the impact of surface roughness on albedo and to assess the respective role of these two effects, with 1) observations over varying amounts of surface roughness, and 2) simulations using the new Rough Surface Ray Tracer (RSRT) model, based on a Monte Carlo method for photon transport calculation.

The observations include spectral albedo (400–1050 nm) over manually-created roughness surfaces with multiple geometrical characteristics. Measurements highlight that even a low fraction of surface roughness features (7 % of the surface) causes an albedo decrease of 0.02 at 1000 nm when the solar zenith angle (Өs) is larger than 50°. For higher fractions (13 %, 27 % and 63 %), and when the roughness orientation is perpendicular to the sun, the decrease is of 0.03–0.04 at 700 nm and of 0.06–0.10 at 1000 nm. The impact is 20 % lower when roughness orientation is parallel to the sun. The observations are subsequently compared to RSRT simulations. Accounting for surface roughness improves the model observation agreement by a factor two at 700 nm and 1000 nm (errors of 0.03 and 0.04, respectively), compared to simulations considering a flat smooth surface. The model is used to explore the albedo sensitivity to surface roughness with varying snow properties and illumination conditions. Both multiple reflections and the effective angle effect have more impact with low SSA (< 10 m2 kg−1). The effective angle effect also increases rapidly with Өs at large Өs. This latter effect is larger when the overall slope of the surface is facing away the sun and with a roughness orientation perpendicular to the sun.

For a typical alpine snowpack in clear sky conditions, a broadband albedo decrease of 0.05 causes an increase of the net short wave radiation of 80 % (from 15 W m−2 to 27 W m−2). This paper highlights the necessity to consider surface roughness in the estimation of the surface energy budget.

Fanny Larue et al.

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Fanny Larue et al.

Fanny Larue et al.


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Latest update: 02 Apr 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The effect of surface roughness on snow albedo is often overlooked although a small change in albedo may strongly affect the surface energy budget. By carving artificial roughness in an initially smooth snowpack, we highlight albedo reduction of 0.03–0.04 at 700 nm and 0.06–0.10 at 1000 nm. A model using photon transport is developed to compute albedo considering roughness, and applied to understand the impact of roughness as a function of snow properties and illumination conditions.
The effect of surface roughness on snow albedo is often overlooked although a small change in...