Latitudinal land–sea distributions and global surface albedo since the Cretaceous

Kent, Dennis V.; Muttoni, Giovanni

We estimate global surface albedo from the areal proportion of land to sea in climatically-significant latitudinal belts at ten million-year intervals for the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic (120 million years ago to Present) using modern plate tectonic reconstructions and a composite apparent polar path designed to minimize known biases in the determination of paleolatitude. We find that global surface albedo stayed almost constant until it shifted 30% higher to the modern value of around 0.15 with the inception of the Late Cenozoic Ice Age 34 million years ago, reflecting polar ice-albedo amplification of global cooling resulting from the reduction of greenhouse gases below a critical threshold, most probably as the culmination of enhanced CO2 weathering consumption of continental mafic rocks in the tropical humid belt. The contribution from cloud cover toward a planetary albedo is unclear in the absence of measurable proxies but might eventually be gauged from the role cloudiness evidently plays in maintaining radiative balance with the increasing land bias between northern and southern hemispheres over the Cenozoic.


Also Published In

Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Biology and Paleo Environment
Published Here
November 1, 2021