The snow–ice surface is the highest light reflecting (albedo) surface on Earth and a key factor influencing the planet’s radiative balance. The deposition of light-absorbing particles (LAP) — primarily black carbon, organic carbon, mineral dust, and microbes—reduces snow albedo, increasing absorption of solar radiation, and accelerating snow melting. Of these LAP, water-soluble organic carbon particles are among the least studied. Recent work by an international team of researchers analyzed snowpack samples collected across northwestern China and modeled their effect on radiative forcing. They find water-soluble organic carbon particles showed warming effects contributing up to 16% of that caused by black carbon, demonstrating their influence on the snow energy budget.
Zhou, Y., C. P. West, A. P. S. Hettiyadura, X. Niu, H. Wen, J. Cui, T. Shi, W. Pu, X. Wang, and A. Laskin (2021). Measurement report: Molecular composition, optical properties, and radiative effects of water-soluble organic carbon in snowpack samples from northern Xinjiang, China. Atmos. Chem. Phys., 21, 8531–8555, 2021.