Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



Plugging Whitecaps Into The Global Climate Model

surfing the coal face of our chaotic climatic world
San Diego - May 14, 2001
A new study by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, has dramatically elevated the importance and influence of oceanic whitecaps on global climates.

Whitecaps, the bright, wind-driven result of breaking wave crests, have been mostly ignored by climate models.

In a paper that appeared in the April 15 edition of Geophysical Research Letters, Robert Frouin and Sam Iacobellis of Scripps, along with Pierre-Yves Deschamps of the Laboratoire d'Optique Atmosphérique in France, for the first time clearly define the amount whitecaps impact climate by reflecting sunlight, or solar radiation. The presence of whitecaps results in less radiation reaching the surface of the ocean -- especially in cloudless skies -- changing the way this radiation energy impacts the ocean, the atmosphere, and entire climate system.

"Our estimate of the global radiative forcing by oceanic whitecaps is small, yet not negligible compared with the direct forcing by some greenhouse gases and even anthropogenic aerosols," said Frouin. "In contrast to well-mixed greenhouse gases, whitecaps are more localized, and their forcing may be much larger on regional and seasonal scales, with definite effects on climate."

Basing their new research on Frouin's earlier findings that identified the spectral dependence of whitecap reflectance, the researchers used satellite data and other measurements to calculate how much solar radiation whitecaps reflect away from the surface. They found a global average of .03 watts per meter squared. However in certain regions, such as parts of the Indian Ocean, this average jumped significantly -- in some cases up to .7 watts per meter squared.

This was particularly true in the case of the Arabian Sea, which can exhibit cloudless skies and great wind speed -- two important factors in increasing the role of whitecaps.

Previously, white caps were largely disregarded in climate models. Historically, they played a stagnant and incomplete role in these models. Most models pegged their importance on a broad brush figure, rather than a calculated global and regional influence factoring wind speed and cloud cover, as Frouin, Iacobellis, and Deschamps have done.

"We've demonstrated that in certain cases these whitecaps might be important players in evaluating how regions respond to climate change," said Iacobellis. "Hopefully we've shown that whitecaps should be included in climate models."

The authors note that compared with carbon dioxide, whitecaps have a relatively small influence on climate. With other gases, however, such as nitrous oxide, whitecaps can have a comparable effect.

The authors also note that their findings play into the tangled equation of changes due to greenhouse gases. Greenhouse warming may change wind speed, thus altering the amount of whitecaps, and as a result changing the amount of radiation white caps reflect, ultimately changing heat content and temperatures.

"Many competing effects and feed-backs may be involved, and are difficult to untangle," said Frouin.

The research was supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the California Space Institute, the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

Related Links
Scripps Institute of Oceanography
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Scripps Calls For Quick Launch Of Triana
San Diego - April 10, 2001
Triana, the first deep space Earth-observing mission, will provide a continuous view of the entire sunlit face of the rotating Earth. Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientists and leaders are currently working in collaboration with NASA officials to investigate opportunities to launch the Triana spacecraft.



Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only






Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News








The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.