Snow Turning Green In Antarctica: Why It’s Bad


The snow in the cold and mostly empty region of Antarctica is slowly turning green and this could mean some bad news.

Snow In Antarctica Starts Turning Green

If you think of the region of Antarctica, you’ll probably think of the color white, given that it’s mostly frozen and covered in ice. You wouldn’t, for example, think of the color green since green usually means trees, or grass or some form of plant life.

But it’s that exact color that can be seen in some parts of the Antarctic Peninsula right now, as observed by a team of researchers that has discovered some of its snow has turned green. The reason behind this? Blooming algae growth caused by the warming temperatures as a result of climate change. For the region, this means bad news.

The green snow was first discovered due to satellite data gathered from 2017 and 2019, which was combined with on-the-ground measurements of over two summers in the frozen peninsula.

Per the researchers, warming temperatures are behind this growth since the algae need wet snow to grow in. However, they’re mostly microscopic, which means that they can only turn snow green if they grow simultaneously and in very large amounts.

And per the study, the researchers were able to identify 1,679 separate blooms of green algae on the snow surface, covering an area of 1.9 square kilometers. Per the team, this is equivalent to carbon sink of around 479 tons per 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,” Andrew Gray, lead author of the paper and a researcher at the University of Cambridge, who also mentioned that the rising temperatures would likely increase the growth of these organisms, said.

“It’s very dark — a green snow algal bloom will reflect about 45% of light hitting it whereas fresh snow will reflect about 80% of the light hitting it, so it will increase the rate of snow melt in a localized area,” he explained.

antarctica-3883212_960_720 A station in the Antarctica. Photos by Pixabay (CC0)

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