The latest reports are suggesting that Antarctica’s white terrain is turning green and scientists warn the problem is acute due to climate change and ominous impacts will manifest in many areas rise including a rise in sea levels.
The new findings came from researchers at the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey. They tracked algae growth for the last two years in the region, combining on-site measurements and images from the Sentinel 2 satellite of European Space Agency.
The results were published in the journal Nature Communications this week. The team captured photos of the Antarctic regions between 2017 and 2019 to create the first-ever map of spreading green snow cover. The study identified 1,679 separate blooms of green algae spread in 0.73 square miles or 500 acres.
The algae-infested areas can absorb more than 500 tons of carbon each year as per researchers. They also fear the impact on downstream terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The algae growth may make the Antarctic regions darker and increase heat absorption and intensify the melting of ice with a knock-on impact on sea levels and other areas.
Microscopic algae spreading on the snow in the Antarctic Peninsula is aided by the melting snow. The algae take nutrients from wildlife populations such as penguins living there. In the long-term, the scientists warn that if climate change does not abate Antarctic snow will completely melt leaving no algae.
The current study focused only on green algae although the presence of red and orange algae is also significant.
American space agency NASA revealed in a recent report that the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets had been melting six times faster than in the 1990s. It noted the melt-water has increased global sea levels by 0.7-inches. By 2100, scientists warned that global sea levels could jump by 28 inches.
According to data, Antarctica experienced a temperature hike of 3°C in the Antarctic Peninsula. It was 5 times more than the mean rate of global warming propounded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In the past 50 years, the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula has been the most rapidly warming part of the planet. The Antarctic Circumpolar Current has heated up rapidly than all the global oceans put together.
The study assumes importance as climate change in Antarctica will help scientists index the future climate change data for helping policymakers worldwide.
Many glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula have retreated and many ice shelves that fringed the Peninsula collapsed. Ice shelves are massive glacial land ice extending more than 20,000 square miles.
Two ice sheets cover most of Greenland and Antarctica and they contain more than 99 percent of the freshwater ice on Earth.