NASA Study Confirms Dark Snow Has Significant Effects

July 23, 2015

The Dark Snow team contributed to the production of this video. Looks good.


Tiny particles suspended in the air, known as aerosols, can darken snow and ice causing it to absorb more of the sun’s energy. But until recently, scientists rarely considered the effect of all three major types of light-absorbing aerosols together in climate models.

In a new study, NASA scientists used a climate model to examine the impact of this snow-darkening phenomenon on Northern Hemisphere snowpacks, including how it affects snow amount and heating on the ground in spring.

The study looked at three types of light-absorbing aerosols – dust, black carbon and organic carbon. Black carbon and organic carbon are produced from the burning of fossil fuels, like coal and oil, as well as biofuels and biomass, such as forests.


With their snow darkening effect added to NASA’s GEOS-5 climate model, scientists analyzed results from 2002 to 2011, and compared them to model runs done without the aerosols on snow. They found that the aerosols indeed played a role in absorbing more of the sun’s energy. Over broad places in the Northern Hemisphere, the darkened snow caused some surface temperatures to be up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it would be if the snow were pristine. As a result, warmer, snow-darkened areas had less snow in spring than they would have had under pristine snow conditions.

According to the study, dust’s snow darkening effect significantly contributed to surface warming in Central Asia and the western Himalayas. Black carbon’s snow darkening effect had a larger impact primarily in Europe, the eastern Himalayas and East Asia. It had a smaller impact in North America. Organic carbon’s snow darkening effect was relatively lower but present in regions such as southeastern Siberia, northeastern East Asia and western Canada.

“As we add more of these aerosols to the mix, we are potentially increasing our overall impact on Earth’s climate,” said research scientist Teppei Yasunari at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Research: Impact of snow darkening via dust, black carbon, and organic carbon on boreal spring climate in the Earth system
Journal: Geophysical Research: Atmospheres

Link to Paper here.

5 Responses to “NASA Study Confirms Dark Snow Has Significant Effects”

  1. omnologos Says:

    Among all the noise, a sign of reason. Very good.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Omno’s standard cryptic, obscure, and inane comment that evokes another WHAT???????

      Exactly what is the “sign of reason” that is “very good” here, Omno? And what is all the “noise” that it sits “among”?

      • omnologos Says:

        I’m a supporter of the Dark Snow project. It investigates a clear cut effect and can help clarify much of the standard climate debate, by isolating the specific consequences of airborne particulates

        • dumboldguy Says:

          Dark Snow investigates a “clear cut effect”? True enough, and one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand that. Anyone who lives in regions with much snowfall can observe the effects of “dark snow” when the snow along roads melts in the days after a storm. Although more rapid melting of snow pack in the spring can and will be a large problem for China and South Asia, it won’t impact the overall water cycle very much. The big known unknown for global sea level rise is the Greenland ice sheet, and the news is not good there.

          Dark Snow can “help clarify much of the standard climate debate, by isolating the specific consequences of airborne particulates”? Clarify MUCH of the debate? Hardly, since airborne particulates, although important, do not constitute “much” of the AGW problem.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Looks like some folks are trying to steal the Dark Snow Project’s thunder. Good thing the DiCaprio Foundation has given Dark Snow some support—–NASA can be a 600 pound gorilla that grabs all the bananas (although Ted Cruz and the know-nothings may starve it yet).

    It IS good that NASA is looking at dark snow globally in the lower latitudes, and the effects in the Himalayas are particularly worrisome, but I worry most about the impact on the Greenland ice sheet. If and when we see a runaway melt in Greenland, it will be SHTF time.

    PS How do I get my Dark Snow decal for being a “return supporter”?

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