FARGO — Do you ever wonder why all of our snow doesn't just melt away on a warm day?
Let’s think about sweet summertime. You’re outside enjoying the warmth and sunshine in your black shirt. You realize you’re feeling warmer and warmer, but your buddy next to you, wearing a white shirt, stays somewhat cooler.
That is Albedo, the measurement, usually as a percentage, of the amount of sunlight being reflected off an object. A white object, like your buddy’s shirt, or the snowpack, will reflect more sunlight compared to a dark object like your black shirt or the pavement will soak in the sun’s radiation and begin to warm.
A similar process happens this time of year when it comes to snow melting. Pavement will warm up on a bright sunny day and help to melt the snow nearby. Meanwhile, a thick pack of white snow will reflect most of the sun’s rays, and take longer to melt away.
Albedo impacts air temperature as well. On February 22nd, a bright sunny day, Marion, ND reached 43° while nearby spots were stuck in the mid 30s.
Why? The thermometer is near an unharvested cornfield, which soaked in the sun’s rays and warmed the air; while the surrounding thermometers, near snowpack, read cooler temps because the snow was reflecting more of the sun’s radiation compared to the corn.