Albedo ( /ælˈbiːdoʊ/), or reflection coefficient, derived from Latin albedo "whiteness" (or reflected sunlight), in turn from albus "white", is the diffuse reflectivity or reflecting power of a surface. It is defined as the ratio of reflected radiation from the surface to incident radiation upon it. Being a dimensionless fraction, it may also be expressed as a percentage, and is measured on a scale from zero for no reflecting power of a perfectly black surface, to 1 for perfect reflection of a white surface.

Albedo depends on the frequency of the radiation. When quoted unqualified, it usually refers to some appropriate average across the spectrum of visible light. In general, the albedo depends on the directional distribution of incoming radiation. Exceptions are Lambertian surfaces, which scatter radiation in all directions according to a cosine function, so their albedo does not depend on the incident distribution. In practice, a bidirectional reflectance distribution function (BRDF) may be required to characterize the scattering properties of a surface accurately, although the albedo is a very useful first approximation.

The albedo is an important concept in climatology and astronomy, as well as in calculating reflectivity of surfaces in LEED sustainable rating systems for buildings, computer graphics and computer vision. The average overall albedo of Earth, its planetary albedo, is 30 to 35%, because of the covering by clouds, but varies widely locally across the surface, depending on the geological and environmental features.

The term was introduced into optics by Johann Heinrich Lambert in his 1760 work Photometria.

Read more about Albedo:  Terrestrial Albedo, Astronomical Albedo, Other Types of Albedo

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