Pink algae speeding up melting of ice sheets

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Pink algae speeding up melting of ice sheets

Postby HBS Guy » 16 Sep 2018, 18:29

A SURPRISINGLY HAPPY and healthy ecosystem of algae is not only turning parts of the Greenland ice sheet pinkish-red, it’s contributing more than a little to the melting of one of the biggest frozen bodies of water in the world.

The discolored snow isn’t just an Arctic phenomenon. “It’s actually a global occurrence,” says Alexandre Anesio, a biogeochemist from the University of Bristol.“In order for them to form visible blooms and increase the melting of the snow and ice, they just need the right conditions, which at a minimum involve basic nutrients and melting,” says Anesio. “As the climate gets warmer, the availability of liquid water from snow and ice becomes higher, favoring the growth of snow and ice algae.”

“I think that this is increasingly becoming a problem in Arctic, Alpine, and Himalayan glaciers," Anesio says. Blooms of red snow and brown ice are turning up in Antarctica, too.

And experts are not accounting for the effect in their projections of global sea level rise, despite increasing evidence of what darkening snow is doing to the world's glaciers.

So because there is meltwater on top of the ice—a film over all the ice, ponds of meltwater, snow that has some of it melted etc these algae can live there and by doing so make the top of the ice sheets darker. This means they reflect less sunlight, absorb more sunlight and so melt faster.
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