Narrow field-of-view sensors on satellites monitoring solar radiation measure the reflected radiance in a particular direction. For climatic studies of the Earth’s radiation budget, the albedo is needed, which is the integral of the upward radiance over all angles divided by the downward irradiance. In order to infer the albedo from a radiance measurement at only one angle, it is necessary to know a priori the distribution of reflected radiation with angle, i.e. the bi-directional reflectance-distribution function (BRDF). The BRDF is a function of four angles: solar zenith and azimuth, and satellite zenith and azimuth. For areal or temporal averages on many natural surfaces, only three angles are needed to describe the function, because only the difference between the two azimuths is important, not their individual values. This assumption was made when developing empirical BRDFs from Nimbus-satellite data for use in the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE). However, in large areas of the polar regions, all four angles are needed, because the sastrugi are oriented parallel to a prevailing wind direction. The BRDF shows a forward peak when the solar beam is along the direction of the sastrugi, and an enhanced backward peak when it is perpendicular. Averaging over all solar azimuths (relative to the sastrugi azimuth) causes back-scattering to be averaged together with forward-scattering. The conclusion of the ERBE analysis, that snow is the most nearly isotropic of all Earth surfaces, is therefore at least partly a spurious result of this averaging.
Measurements of the BRDF were carried out from a 23 m tower at the South Pole during January and February at 900 nm wavelength for varying azimuths between the Sun and the sastrugi fabric. The wavelength was selected near the midpoint of the solar-energy spectrum but where scattered sky radiation is negligible. Measurements were made with 10° field of view at 15° intervals in viewing zenith and azimuth angles throughout the day, at intervals of 1 h (15° of solar azimuth). For BRDF normalized such that its angular average is unity, the principal features of the results include a forward-scattering peak with a value of about five together with a side- and back-scattering lobe of 1.1 to 1.3. Variations in solar azimuth produced a skewness in BRDF which was approximately consistent with enhanced scattering at the specular angle with respect to the solar azimuth and the orientation of the principal fabric of the sastrugi pattern. The angularly averaged pattern was remarkably similar to the results of Taylor and Stowe even though their values were integrated over wavelength and were made through the atmosphere. Our studies thus suggest that, for mid- to late summer, the Taylor and Stowe results require only small corrections for sastrugi effects. This is not, however, expected to be true from sunrise through late November.
Spectral albedos showed values at visible wavelengths of 0.97 to 0.99 which agree very well with the model calculations of Wiscombe and Warren using our observed mean snow grain-sizes. Albedos for wavelengths above 1400 nm were higher than model predictions, indicating that the depth dependence of grain-size must be included in the analysis.
This research was supported by National Science Foundation grant DPP-83–16220.