Professor 2: Administrator, we have to do something about our greenhouse gas emissions before it is too late.
Administrator: I cannot promise any immediate action.
Alkina: You should at least commission a committee to further study the causes and effects of climate change on your planet.
Administrator: I suppose we can spare some resources for additional research.
Epo: You must deploy satellites to study the albedo to see how much light is reflected by your planet in addition to studying greenhouse gas emissions composition. This will help you see how much of your star’s energy in being absorbed by it.
Administrator: Very well. Professor, I am putting you in charge in collecting the appropriate data.
Professor 2: Thank you, Administrator! And thank you, Alkina.
Alkina: You are welcome. Epo and I must really get back to finding Wosec.
Professor 2: Yes, of course. I hope you find him soon.
Alkina: Yes, I hope so. Epo, let’s get going.
What does it mean?
Albedo – is the efficiency with which a particular surface reflects light. It is calculated by dividing the amount of light reflected by the surface by the amount of light that shines on it.
In human speak please!
The albedo of a planet helps determine how much of the energy that falls on it is absorbed. Our planet’s atmosphere is mostly transparent to visible light emitted by our Sun. This means the atmosphere allows visible light to pass through and reach the surface of Earth. If the light falling on Earth’s surface encounters a highly reflective surface, most of it is reflected back out into space. However, if it gets absorbed by the surface, it loses some of its energy and is re-emitted as infrared light. Greenhouse gases in our atmosphere keep infrared light (and its energy) from escaping into space, causing the overall temperature of the atmosphere to go up.
The Earth is relatively large; therefore the increases in temperature are fairly small. However, over several decades, these small increases in temperature add up causing measureable changes in our overall climate.
Is that all?
Albedo – A more detailed explanation of albedo.
Ice Albedo – A conceptual animation showing how polar ice reflects light from the sun. As this ice begins to melt, less sunlight gets reflected into space. It is instead absorbed into the oceans and land, raising the overall temperature, and fueling further melting.