Snowfall-albedo feedbacks could have led to deglaciation of snowball Earth starting from mid-latitudes
de Vrese, Philipp
Caves Rugenstein, Jeremy
Simple and complex climate models suggest a hard snowball – a completely ice-covered planet – is one of the steady-states of Earth’s climate. However, a seemingly insurmountable challenge to the hard-snowball hypothesis lies in the difficulty in explaining how the planet could have exited the glaciated state within a realistic range of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Here, we use simulations with the Earth system model MPI-ESM to demonstrate that terminal deglaciation could have been triggered by high dust deposition fluxes. In these simulations, deglaciation is not initiated in the tropics, where a strong hydrological cycle constantly regenerates fresh snow at the surface, which limits the dust accumulation and snow aging, resulting in a high surface albedo. Instead, comparatively low precipitation rates in the mid-latitudes in combination with high maximum temperatures facilitate lower albedos and snow dynamics that – for extreme dust fluxes – trigger deglaciation even at present-day carbon dioxide levels.
9 pages with color illustrations.
de Vrese, Philipp, et al. “Snowfall-Albedo Feedbacks Could Have Led to Deglaciation of Snowball Earth Starting from Mid-Latitudes.” Wheaton College Digital Repository, Communications Earth & Environment, 14 May 2021, https://digitalrepository.wheatoncollege.edu/handle/11040/34577.
Communications Earth & Environment