Field Measured Spectral Albedo–Four Years of Data from the Western U.S. Prairie


  • Joseph J. Michalsky,

    Corresponding author
    1. Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, USA
    • Corresponding author: J. J. Michalsky, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 327 Broadway GMD Boulder, CO 80305, USA. (

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  • Gary B. Hodges

    1. Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
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[1] This paper presents an initial look at four years of spectral measurements used to calculate albedo for the Colorado prairie just east of the Rocky Mountain range foothills. Some issues associated with calculating broadband albedo from thermopile sensors are discussed demonstrating that uncorrected instrument issues have led to incorrect conclusions. Normalized Difference Vegetative Index (NDVI) is defined for the spectral instruments in this study and used to demonstrate the dramatic changes that can be monitored with this very sensitive product. Examples of albedo wavelength and solar-zenith angle dependence for different stages of vegetative growth and senescence are presented. The spectral albedo of fresh snow and its spectral and solar-zenith angle dependence are discussed and contrasted with other studies of these dependencies. We conclude that fresh snow is consistent with a Lambertian reflector over the solar incidence angles measured; this is contrary to most snow albedo results. Even a slope of a degree or two in the viewed surface can explain the asymmetry in the morning and afternoon albedos for snow and vegetation. Plans for extending these spectral measurements for albedo to longer wavelengths and to additional sites are described.