Diurnal Variability of the Planetary Albedo: An Appraisal with Satellite Measurements and General Circulation Models

G. L. Potter Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California, Livermore, California

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R. D. Cess Laboratory for Planetary Atmospheres Research, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York

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P. Minnis Atmospheric Sciences Division, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

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E. F. Harrison Atmospheric Sciences Division, NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia

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V. Ramanathan Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

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Abstract

This study addresses two aspects of the planetary albedo's diurnal cycle, the first of which refers to directional models of the planetary albodo. It is found that even for clear regions there appear to be deficiencies in our knowledge of how to model this quantity. Over land surfaces, for example, Nimbus-7 data for the directional planetary albedo compare best with model calculations for which a Lambertian surface is assumed, despite ample evidence that the albedo of land surfaces is dependent upon solar zenith angle. Similarly, over ocean surfaces both GOES and Nimbus-7 data produce a weaker dependence of the planetary albedo upon solar zenith angle than would be suggested by model calculations.

The second aspect of the study concerns a comparison of the diurnal amplitude factor, defined as the ratio of the diurnally averaged planetary albedo to that at noon, between two general circulation models (GCMs) and measurements made from a geostationary satellite (GOES). While these comparisons indicate reasonable consistency between the GCMs and the satellite measurements, this is due in part to compensating differences, such as an underestimate in cloud amount by a GCM being compensated for by a corresponding underestimate of the diurnal amplitude factor for overcast regions. The comparisons further underscore difficulties associated with converting local-time albedo measurements, as made from sun-synchronous satellites, to diurnally averaged albedos.

Abstract

This study addresses two aspects of the planetary albedo's diurnal cycle, the first of which refers to directional models of the planetary albodo. It is found that even for clear regions there appear to be deficiencies in our knowledge of how to model this quantity. Over land surfaces, for example, Nimbus-7 data for the directional planetary albedo compare best with model calculations for which a Lambertian surface is assumed, despite ample evidence that the albedo of land surfaces is dependent upon solar zenith angle. Similarly, over ocean surfaces both GOES and Nimbus-7 data produce a weaker dependence of the planetary albedo upon solar zenith angle than would be suggested by model calculations.

The second aspect of the study concerns a comparison of the diurnal amplitude factor, defined as the ratio of the diurnally averaged planetary albedo to that at noon, between two general circulation models (GCMs) and measurements made from a geostationary satellite (GOES). While these comparisons indicate reasonable consistency between the GCMs and the satellite measurements, this is due in part to compensating differences, such as an underestimate in cloud amount by a GCM being compensated for by a corresponding underestimate of the diurnal amplitude factor for overcast regions. The comparisons further underscore difficulties associated with converting local-time albedo measurements, as made from sun-synchronous satellites, to diurnally averaged albedos.

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