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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Humans affect the reflective properties (or albedo) of the surface and the amount of solar energy that is absorbed by Earth, in turn affecting climate. In recent years, a variety of metrics have been applied to characterize albedo perturbations in terms of their CO2-equivalent effects, despite the lack of scientific consensus about the methods behind them. We review these metrics, evaluate their (de)merits, provide guidance for future application, and suggest avenues for future research.
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https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-1109
https://doi.org/10.5194/acp-2020-1109

  10 Dec 2020

10 Dec 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ACP.

CO2-equivalence metrics for surface albedo change based on the radiative forcing concept: A critical review

Ryan M. Bright1 and Marianne T. Lund2 Ryan M. Bright and Marianne T. Lund
  • 1Department of Forest and Climate, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy Research (NIBIO), PO Box 115, 1431-Ås, Norway
  • 2Centre for International Climate Research (CICERO), 0349 Oslo, Norway

Abstract. Management of Earth's surface albedo is increasingly viewed as an important climate change mitigation strategy both on (Seneviratne et al., 2018) and off (Field et al., 2018; Kravitz et al., 2018) the land. Assessing the impact of a surface albedo change involves employing a measure like radiative forcing (RF) which can be challenging to digest for decision-makers who deal in the currency of CO2-equivalent emissions. As a result, many researchers express albedo change (Δα) RFs in terms of their CO2-equivalent effects, despite the lack of a standard method for doing so, such as there is for emissions of well-mixed greenhouse gases (WMGHGs; e.g., IPCC AR5, Myhre et al. (2013)). A major challenge for converting Δα RFs into their CO2-equivalant effects in a manner consistent with current IPCC emission metric approaches stems from the lack of a universal time-dependency following the perturbation (perturbation lifetime). Here, we review existing methodologies based on the RF concept with the goal of highlighting the context(s) in which the resulting CO2-equivalent metrics may or may not have merit. To our knowledge this is the first review dedicated entirely to the topic since the first CO2-eq. metric for Δα surfaced 20 years ago. We find that, although there are some methods that sufficiently address the time-dependency issue, none address or sufficiently account for the spatial disparity between the climate response to CO2 emissions and Δα – a major critique of Δα metrics based on the RF concept (Jones et al., 2013). We conclude that considerable research efforts are needed to build consensus surrounding the RF efficacy of various surface forcing types associated with Δα (e.g., crop change, forest harvest, etc.), and the degree to which these are sensitive to the spatial pattern, extent, and magnitude of the underlying surface forcings.

Ryan M. Bright and Marianne T. Lund

 
Status: open (until 04 Feb 2021)
Status: open (until 04 Feb 2021)
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Ryan M. Bright and Marianne T. Lund

Ryan M. Bright and Marianne T. Lund

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Short summary
Humans affect the reflective properties (or albedo) of the surface and the amount of solar energy that is absorbed by Earth, in turn affecting climate. In recent years, a variety of metrics have been applied to characterize albedo perturbations in terms of their CO2-equivalent effects, despite the lack of scientific consensus about the methods behind them. We review these metrics, evaluate their (de)merits, provide guidance for future application, and suggest avenues for future research.
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