Algae are melting away the Greenland ice sheet

Algae that live on snow and ice produce a kaleidoscope of colours. Jason Edwards/NGC

Researchers are fanning out across the Greenland ice sheet this month to explore a crucial, but overlooked, influence on its future: red, green and brown-coloured algal blooms. These darken the snow and ice, causing it to absorb more sunlight and melt faster. The Black and Bloom project aims to measure how algae are changing how much sunlight Greenland’s ice sheet bounces back into space. The algae creates vast, colourful fields of what is popularly known as ‘watermelon snow’. 6 types of algae living at 40 red-snow sites in Norway, Sweden, Greenland and Iceland. By comparing the optical properties of red snow to clean snow, researchers estimated that algal blooms could reduce reflectivity by 13% over the melting season.

— source | 2016

Nullius in verba


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