Antarctica is turning green. Know why


Antarctica is turning green. Know why

In coastal Antarctica, you will find some patches of snow that are green in colour, and not white. Although these small patches of green snow had been visible for quite some years, reports state that these green patches of snow will likely spread across Antarctica due to climate change.

As per the study published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday, this vibrant green colour has been caused by microscopic algae blooming across the surface of the snow. A team of researchers from the British Antarctic Survey and University of Cambridge, using fieldwork observations and satellite data, have now predicted the future spread of green snow by creating the first large-scale map of the green algae.

These patches of green snow are visible along the Antarctic coastline, which are usually in warmer areas, where the average temperature goes a little above zero degrees Celsius during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months of November to February. As per the researchers, this part has been experiencing rapid warming during the latter part of the last century.

Reportedly, scientists have identified 1679 separate green algae blooms on the snow surface, which covers a certain amount of area now. These organisms will continue to expand as global temperatures increase, the researchers opined.

Referring to this, Dr Andrew Gray, who was the lead author of the paper and a researcher at the University of Cambridge, stated that as Antarctica warms, they are of the view that the overall mass of snow algae will spread to the higher ground, which will then significantly outweigh the loss of small island patches of algae. He mentioned that growing temperature would also create a more favourable environment for the algae, which can then spread to higher ground when the snow melts.

The team of researchers also found out that the spread of green snow algae is further influenced by mammals and marine birds, as their excrement works as fertilizer. This means more than 60 percent of the blooms are found near nesting sites of the birds, and near penguin colonies.

Further, the amount of algae that has been found by the team creates a carbon sink that actually absorbs around 500 tons of carbon each year, which is equivalent to about 875000 average car journeys in the United Kingdom, the researchers said.

As of now, it is not yet clear as to how the spreading of algae will affect the planet. It however plays a key role in cycling nutrients and pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, but that also darkens the snow, and absorbs more heat from the sun, a researcher said.

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