Algae drive enhanced darkening of bare ice on the Greenland ice sheet

Melting of the Greenland ice sheet is enhanced by surface darkening caused by various impurities. We quantified the contribution of dark pigment-producing algae to the ice sheet surface darkening, based on field measurements in the southwestern part of the ice sheet during the 2014 melt season. Our analysis reveals that the impact of algae on bare (snow-free) ice darkening was greater than that of other impurities and, therefore, that algal growth was a crucial control of bare ice darkening in the study area. Incorporating the darkening effect of algal growth is expected to improve future projections of the Greenland ice sheet melting.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2017GL075958/abstract

One thought on “Algae drive enhanced darkening of bare ice on the Greenland ice sheet

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  1. This paper suggests a possibility that increasing biological activity in the polar ocean (due to global warming) may accelerate the solar heat absorption in the surface water, and thus the ocean warming and ice melting. I don’t think this effect is currently included in climate models.

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