Albedo is the reflection of heat by the earth back into space. Once heat arrives through the atmosphere to the earth’s surface, variable amounts of that heat is reflected back up into the atmosphere, and eventually into space. Surfaces such as ice and snow that reflect a high amount of heat have a high albedo. Surfaces that absorb rather than reflect heat, such as sea and rock, have a low albedo.
Overall, the Earth reflects about 30% of the sunlight that reaches it from space; it has an albedo of around 0.3. The other 70% is absorbed. Without any blanket gases around the earth, this alebdo of 0.3 would give us an average temperature across the globe of -18C.
The more ice melts at the poles, the less heat is reflected by ice and snow, and the more heat is absorbed by water. In this way the albedo of the earth is decreased.
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