Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dark Algae Increases Ice Melt

The healthy ecosystem of algae is turning parts of the Greenland ice sheet pink.

The dark pigments in algae increases sunlight absorption, leading to an increase in the rate of  ice melting. Algae blooms appear on glaciers and ice sheets once the snow begins to melt.

New research led by scientists from the University of Bristol has revealed how the microscopic algae that thrives along the edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet causes widespread darkening.

Darkened pigmentation in the algae protects cells from excessive sunlight, but also harnesses the energy for melt generation proximal to the cell, providing access to liquid water and dissolved nutrients critical for life.

Unfortunately, this heavy production of darker pigment also contributes to the Greenland Ice Sheet melting during summer when glacier algae reach bloom abundances.

A study found that algal blooms can contribute as much as 13 percent more ice melt over a season.

Related reading: Pink Polar Ice

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