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Global climate change

The Power of Snow and Ice in Spring

5/26/2011, 3:53:05 AM

Snow and ice cover across the Arctic helps keep our planet in balance when it comes to temperature, reflecting most of the sun's energy back into space.

However, snow and ice don’t have the same cooling power all year round. During winter, snow and ice dominate the Arctic landscape, but there is no sunlight to reflect. This means that the Arctic doesn’t do much to keep global temperatures cool during the winter. In summer, the Arctic is bathed in light constantly, but there isn’t as much snow and ice to reflect the light back into space, according to NASA's Earth Observatory.

In the NASA maps below, darker blue areas reflect the most energy out to space, thus having the greatest cooling effect.


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As you can see from the above images, snow and ice cover in the Spring has the greatest cooling impact.

In the past 30 years, fall snow cover has increased in the Northern Hemisphere, but spring snow cover has decreased. The change means that snow and ice are reflecting less energy to space overall, since there is much more snow and ice on the ground during the Spring, according to NASA.

Global warming appears to be accelerating the melting in the Arctic. The past 5 years have been the warmest on record in the Arctic, and snow is melting earlier during the spring across the region.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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Global climate change