Have you ever thought about green snow ? It sounds quite uncommon. Well, then have a look at this. Recently climate change caused the Antarctic coastal snow to turn green in colour, and now we might be closer to understand what is going on.


What's behind it?

In recent times, amid global warming as well as change in climatic conditions, cause the turning of Antarctica’s snow in bright green colour due to the densely spread of a type of microscopic algae.

A research, entitled as ‘Remote sensing reveals Antarctic green snow algae as important terrestrial carbon sink’, carried forward by Andrew Gray from University of Cambridge, and other co-researchers, revealed this mystery.

Antarctic green snow algae
Image Courtesy : Nature Communications

The major findings

Some specific regions of Antarctica having such dense concentration of blooming algae making a bright green effect, that is even visible from space.

Researchers have used and analysed data from both European Space Agency's Sentinel-2 satellite, and ground based observations, in order to map the continent in great detail. This also helped the researchers to have a baseline of the location of algal blooms, as well as to track whether it is increasing or not.


The research reveals 1,679 different blooms of green single-cell algae. Being spread over 1.9 square kilometres, the algal blooms, as a key component, absorbing carbon dioxide (CO₂) from the atmosphere, which is acting as an important terrestrial carbon sink, absorbs near about 479 tonnes per year. This is equivalent to the carbon emission from almost 8,75,000 petrol car.

According to the study, the green algal blooms are able to reflect nearly 45 percent of sunlight whereas fresh snow reflects nearly 80 percent. Thenceforth this could lead to the increase of snowmelt, specifically at the densely algae concentrated areas.

Researchers also focus on coming future to track the expansion of red and orange algae in Antarctica.

Andrew Gray, the lead author of the study, stated that,
I think we will get more large blooms in future. Before we know if this has a significant impact on carbon budgets or bio-albedo, we need to run the numbers.

This microscopic algae can grow and spread along with the increase of global temperature, and accordingly may act as a new potential source of nutrition for other living species. Matt Davey, a co-researcher, said that, this also could develop a new ecosystem in the Antarctic region.

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