What is albedo and why is it important in climate change?

Albedo is the reflectivity of a surface. A surface that has a high albedo reflects a lot of solar radiation from the sun back into the atmosphere, whilst a surface that has a low albedo reflects little solar radiation, absorbing it instead.

White surfaces (such as ice) have high albedos, whilst black, dark surfaces (such as rocks) have low albedos. This is important in terms of climate change because ice has a high albedo, and so reflects most solar radiation back into the atmosphere, meaning the ice remains cold. However, due to increased sea surface temperatures, sea ice in areas such as the Arctic is melting. The removal of the sea ice results in further sea warming due to the fact that the sea has a lower albedo, and so absorbs more solar radiation from the sun, heating it. This positive feedback mechanism results in further sea ice loss, accelerating climate change.

Faith P. GCSE Geography tutor, 13 plus  Geography tutor

1 year ago

Answered by Faith, a GCSE Geography tutor with MyTutor

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist


PremiumSarah M. IB Biology tutor, A Level Biology tutor, GCSE Biology tutor,...
View profile
£22 /hr

Sarah M.

Degree: Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences (Doctorate) - Edinburgh University

Subjects offered: Geography, Science+ 2 more

English Literature

“About Me: I'm a GeoSciences PhD student at the University of Edinburgh. I changed my undergraduate subject from English Literature to Biology and Plant Sciences. I'm happy to help with science questions, since I am fascinated by the n...”

PremiumCharlotte J. GCSE Geography tutor, A Level Geography tutor, A Level P...
View profile
£30 /hr

Charlotte J.

Degree: International Relations (Bachelors) - Durham University

Subjects offered: Geography, Politics+ 2 more

Government and Politics
-Personal Statements-

“First year International Relations student. Passionate about Politics and Geography and looking to tutor both A-Level and GCSE students.”

Zoe C. A Level Biology tutor, GCSE Biology tutor, A Level Geography t...
View profile
£18 /hr

Zoe C.

Degree: Biological Sciences (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: Geography, Chemistry+ 1 more


“My name is Zoe and I am currently studying biological sciences at the University of Exeter. I absolutley love science and I would love to tutor you so you can discover the wonders of science too. At A level I studied biology, chemistr...”

About the author

Faith P. GCSE Geography tutor, 13 plus  Geography tutor
View profile

Faith P.

Currently unavailable: no new students

Degree: BA Geography (Bachelors) - Exeter University

Subjects offered: Geography


“Passionate third year geography student at the University of Exeter who is looking to tutor those who are studying for 13 plus or GSCE geography.”

MyTutor guarantee

You may also like...

Other GCSE Geography questions

Use one or more examples to explain why people migrate within the European Union.

What is globalisation and how does it affect us?

What is the Pacific Ring of Fire?

What are some examples of hard vs. soft engineering?

View GCSE Geography tutors


We use cookies to improve our service. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss