by Peter Sinclair, Climate Crocks, July 31, 2014
In addition to increased wildfires, the Dark Snow Team will be investigating the impact of algae and microbes, which, increasingly favored by warming temperatures, are gaining a larger foothold on the ice.
Dark Snow biologist Dr. Marek Stibal has found that a species of algae living on the ice produces a very special pigment that acts as a sunscreen, protecting it against the intense summer glare. The pigment is the very same molecule that gives black tea its color. The dark pigment, visible in many photos of ice during melt season, is an important, but not well understood, part of the darkening process.
As warmer temperatures spread over larger areas of the ice, more liquid water is made available – a vital factor for algae growth. In addition, scientists wonder whether industrial pollution may be delivering key nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus to the ice, further driving algae growth.