Green snow in Antarctica is another sign that the temperature is warming there. The snow turned green due to blooming algae. What algae need to bloom are warmth, sunlight, and nutrients — for growth and reproduction. Temperature and salt concentration are the determining factors of water density along with currents. For algae to bloom in Antarctica, this means that the water has warmed up enough to support the algae.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 22, 2020
CNN reported that the green snow is likely to spread as temperatures continue to increase. Researches have created the first large-scale map of the algae and their movements. Satellite data that was gathered between 2017 and 2019 along with on-the-ground measurements over two summers in Antarctica is what helped scientists to map the algae as they bloomed in the Antarctic Peninsula. As temperatures continue to grow warmer, this will create a more comfortable environment for the algae.
After February’s strangely high temperatures that resulted in a nine-day heatwave, scientists have identified 1,679 separate blooms of green algae on the surface of the snow. They cover an area of 1.9km2, which shows a carbon sink (a reservoir that absorbs more carbon than it releases) of around 479 tons a year.
“As Antarctica warms, we predict the overall mass of snow algae will increase, as the spread to higher ground will significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae,” stated Dr. Andrew Gray, a researcher at the University of Cambridge. He was also the lead author of a study published in the journal Nature Communications which showed that these algae blooms can be spotted from space.
Gray also told CNN that even though an increase in snowmelt could lead to more algae growing, the distribution of the algae is linked to bird populations — their excrement fertilizes the algae and accelerates growth. Also, an increase in blooms could lead to even more snowmelt.
Featured image courtesy NASA