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Glossary Index

Avalanche Institute


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Radiation balance

Also: Negative Radiation Balance, Positive Radiation Balance, Radiational Cooling, Energy Balance

The sum of all the radiation heat inputs and losses at a surface (e.g., a snow surface) is called the Radiation Balance. For snow this includes incoming solar radiation, outgoing long-wave (infra-red) radiation from the snow into a clear sky, and sometimes other factors as well.

When the snow surface loses heat by infra-red radiation faster than it gains heat the condition is sometimes called a negative radiation balance, and the result is called radiational cooling. When it gains more heat than it loses it is then called a positive radiation balance. In snow and avalanche work we often use the term energy balance to be synonymous with radiation balance, but the energy balance may actually need to include other non-radiation factors such as forced convection.

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