Light absorbing particles (LAP, e.g., black carbon, brown carbon, and dust) influence water and energy budgets of the atmosphere and snowpack in multiple ways. In addition to their effects associated with atmospheric heating by absorption of solar radiation and interactions with clouds, LAP in snow on land and ice can reduce the surface reflectance (a.k.a., surface darkening), which is likely to accelerate the snow aging process and further reduces snow albedo and increases the speed of snowpack melt. LAP in snow and ice (LAPSI) has been identified as one of major forcings affecting climate change, e.g. in the fourth and fifth assessment reports of IPCC. However, the uncertainty level in quantifying this effect remains very high. In this review paper, we document various technical methods of measuring LAPSI and review the progress made in measuring the LAPSI in Arctic, Tibetan Plateau and other mid-latitude regions. We also report the progress in modeling the mass concentrations, albedo reduction, radiative forcing, and climatic and hydrological impact of LAPSI at global and regional scales. Finally we identify some research needs for reducing the uncertainties in the impact of LAPSI on global and regional climate and the hydrological cycle.