Radiative forcing over the conterminous United States due to contemporary land cover land use change and sensitivity to snow and interannual albedo variability



[1] Satellite-derived land cover land use (LCLU), snow and albedo data, and incoming surface solar radiation reanalysis data were used to study the impact of LCLU change from 1973 to 2000 on surface albedo and radiative forcing for 58 ecoregions covering 69% of the conterminous United States. A net positive surface radiative forcing (i.e., warming) of 0.029 Wm−2 due to LCLU albedo change from 1973 to 2000 was estimated. The forcings for individual ecoregions were similar in magnitude to current global forcing estimates, with the most negative forcing (as low as −0.367 Wm−2) due to the transition to forest and the most positive forcing (up to 0.337 Wm−2) due to the conversion to grass/shrub. Snow exacerbated both negative and positive forcing for LCLU transitions between snow-hiding and snow-revealing LCLU classes. The surface radiative forcing estimates were highly sensitive to snow-free interannual albedo variability that had a percent average monthly variation from 1.6% to 4.3% across the ecoregions. The results described in this paper enhance our understanding of contemporary LCLU change on surface radiative forcing and suggest that future forcing estimates should model snow and interannual albedo variation.