New research shows that the decreases in Earth's snow and ice cover over the past 30 years have exacerbated global warming more than models predict they should have, on average
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—The decreases in Earth's snow and ice cover over the past 30 years have exacerbated global warming more than models predict they should have, on average, new research from the University of Michigan shows.
To conduct this study, Mark Flanner, assistant professor in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, analyzed satellite data showing snow and ice during the past three decades in the Northern Hemisphere, which holds the majority of the planet's frozen surface area. The research is newly published online in Nature Geoscience.
Snow and ice reflect the sun's light and heat back to space, causing an atmospheric cooling effect. But as the planet warms, more ice melts and in some cases, less snow falls, exposing additional ground and water that absorb more heat, amplifying the effects of warmer temperatures. This change in reflectance contributes to what's called "albedo feedback," one of the main positive feedback mechanisms adding fuel to the planet's warming trend. The strongest positive feedback is from atmospheric water vapor, and cloud changes may also enhance warming. Read More
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