An international team of researchers from the University of Leeds and German Research Center for Geosciences learned that red pigmented snow, also known as “snow algae,” played a bigger role in the melting of arctic glaciers than previously thought.
The scientists observed this phenomenon during the late spring and summer in the region where the addition of liquid water and sunlight play an important role in the development of this algae, according to the study’s announcement. About 40 samples were taken from 21 glaciers ranging from Greenland and Iceland reaching up to the north of Sweden.
High-throughput genetic sequencing was used to analyze these samples. Results indicated that the presence of this algae led to a 13 percent reduction in albedo over the course of one melting season. Albedo is the reflectivity of the snow, explained Popular Science. Essentially, sunlight was absorbed by the snow instead of reflecting it off the white surface causing the snow and ice to melt faster.
Last month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center released a graph that demonstrated how climate change is impacting the Arctic. This area of the world had experienced record-breaking days that fell below freezing since the record keeping started back in 1980, wrote Gizmodo.
This area of the world is melting quickly. Climate change plays a major role in this development, but this algae discovery isn’t exactly helping matters.
The researchers plan a return visit to the Greenland Ice Sheet this summer to continue studying the relationship between algae and glaciers.