Journal Highlights

Algae Reduce Reflectivity, Enhance Greenland Ice Sheet Melting

Press Release—

New research shows algae growing on the Greenland ice sheet significantly reduce the ice sheet’s surface reflectivity and contribute more to its melting than dust or black carbon.

New research shows algae growing on the Greenland ice sheet, the Earth’s second-largest ice sheet, significantly reduce the surface reflectivity of the ice sheet’s bare ice area and contribute more to its melting than dust or black carbon. The new findings could influence scientists’ understanding of ice sheet melting and projections of future sea level rise, according to the study’s authors.

Glaciologists have long known materials such as mineral dust and black carbon can darken the surface of large ice sheets. Scientists study these impurities because they reduce the sheet’s albedo, or the extent to which it reflects light, which increases melting of the ice and affects projections of sea level rise. But few studies had examined the darkening effect of algal cells, which naturally grow on the ice sheet.

The new study quantitatively assessed how surface ice algae contribute to darkening of the ice sheet, and found the algae reduce the ice sheet’s albedo significantly more than non-algal materials, like mineral particles and black carbon. Algal darkening is responsible for 5 percent to 10 percent of the total ice sheet melt each summer, according to the new research published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union....more

Article Category
Research Letters
The Cryosphere

Algae Drive Enhanced Darkening of Bare Ice on the Greenland Ice Sheet

Marek Stibal, Jason E. Box, Karen A. Cameron, Peter L. Langen, Marian L. Yallop, Ruth H. Mottram, Alia L. Khan, Noah P. Molotch, Nathan A. M. Chrismas, Filippo Calì Quaglia, Daniel Remias, C. J. P. Paul Smeets, Michiel R. van den Broeke, Jonathan C. Ryan, Alun Hubbard, Martyn Tranter, Dirk van As, Andreas P. Ahlstrøm
First Published:
| Vol:
44,
Pages
11,463–11,471
| DOI:
10.1002/2017GL075958
Open Access

RSS

Recent Highlights Across AGU Publications

Eos.org: Earth & Space Science News

View more Earth and space science news from Eos

Download the App

New Android App Available!

Google Play Store Logo

Download the Geophysical Research Letters app from the Google Play Store

iOS App for iPad or iPhone

GRL IOS App

Download the Geophysical Research Letters app from the Apple store


AGU Career Center


AGU Unlocked


Featured Special Collection

A Census of Atmospheric Variability from Seconds to Decades 

The atmosphere varies naturally on all length scales from millimeters to thousands of kilometers, and on all time scales from seconds to decades and longer.  This special collection of Geophysical Research Letters synthesizes and summarizes that variability through a phenomenological census.  The collection brings together some of the most influential and definitive papers to have been published in this journal in recent years.  The topics covered include turbulence on time scales of seconds and minutes, gravity waves on time scales of hours, weather systems on time scales of days, atmospheric blocking on time scales of weeks, the Madden–Julian Oscillation on time scales of months, the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation and El Niño–Southern Oscillation on time scales of years, and the North Atlantic, Arctic, Antarctic, Pacific Decadal, and Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillations on time scales of decades.  The collection is accompanied by a Commentary article, which provides an authoritative, concise, and accessible point of reference for the most important modes of atmospheric variability.

A Census of Atmospheric Variability from Seconds to Decades