Recent work with a coupled energy balance climate-sea ice model has shown that sea ice has a large impact on the energy fluxes between the ocean and the atmosphere and thus on climate, especially in the polar regions. In this study the impact of the addition of snowfall on sea ice and its effect on climate is examined. The results show that the addition of snow introduces three major competing effects. The first effect is that the snow acts as an insulator, keeping the ice warm and thus thin. This would seem to produce a warming effect on the climate. The second is that snow has a lower volumetric specific heat than ice causing it to cool during the winter and warm during the summer more rapidly than ice. The third is that snow has a higher albedo than ice. This causes a reduction in the absorbed solar energy by the entire earth-atmosphere system and thus a cooling of the climate. The results described here indicate that the albedo effect is dominant, so that the addition of snow cools the climate.
This article is from 'Proceedings of the International Conference on the Role of whe Polar Regions in Global Change Held in Fairbanks, Alaska on 11-15 June 1990. Volume 1', AD-A253 027, p321-324. See also Volume 2, AD-A253 028.