Quantifying the climatic impact of crude oil pollution on sea ice albedo. / Redmond Roche, Benjamin; King, Martin.


Research output: Working paper

In preparation


Sea ice albedo is an important component of the Earth’s climate and is affected by low background concentrations of oil droplets within the ice matrix that absorb solar radiation. In this study the albedo response of three different types of sea ice (multi-year, first-year, and melting sea ice) are calculated at increasing mass ratios (0–1000 ng g-1) of crude oil by using a coupled atmosphere-sea ice radiative-transfer model (TUV-snow) over the optical wavelengths 400–700 nm. The different types of quasi-infinite thickness sea ice exhibit different albedo responses to oil pollution, with a 1000 ng g-1 mass ratio of oil causing a decrease to 70.9% in multi-year sea ice, 47.9% in first-year sea ice, and 22% in melting sea ice relative to the unpolluted albedo at a wavelength of 400 nm. The thickness of the sea ice is also an important factor, with realistic thickness sea ices exhibiting similar results, albeit with a weaker albedo response for multi-year sea ice to 75.3%, first-year sea ice to 66.7%, and melting sea ice to 35.7%. The type of oil also plays a significant role on the response of sea ice albedo, with a relatively opaque and heavy crude oil (Romashkino oil) causing a significantly larger decrease in sea ice albedo than a relatively transparent light crude oil (Petrobaltic oil). The size of the oil droplets polluting the oil also plays a minor role in the albedo response, with weathered submicron droplets (0.05–0.5 µm radius) of Romashkino oil being the most absorbing across the optical wavelengths considered. Therefore, the work presented here demonstrates that low background concentrations of small submicron to micron-sized oil droplets have a significant effect on sea ice albedo. All three types of sea ice are affected, however first-year sea ice and particularly melting sea ice are very sensitive to oil pollution; thus, the Arctic may become more vulnerable to oil pollution as the ice becomes progressively thinner and younger in response to a changing climate.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusIn preparation - 2022

ID: 43866638