Albedo (Latin, white) is the percentage of solar energy reflected by Earth. The albedo of various materials ranges from about 85% for pure, fresh snow to 5% for asphalt parking lots or deep, still water. The global mean is about 29%.
Satellite measurements provide a worldwide perspective on albedo. Clearly, deserts and snow-covered regions have a high albedo, whereas forests and agricultural fields have a low albedo. The overall trend seems to be that global albedo is decreasing, most likely due to diminishing snow and ice cover. This change in albedo will increase the amount of solar energy absorbed by the planet.
This is an excerpt from the book Global Climate Change: Convergence of Disciplines by Dr. Arnold J. Bloom and taken from UCVerse of the University of California.
©2010 Sinauer Associates and UC Regents