Algae drive enhanced darkening of bare ice on the Greenland ice sheet

Stibal, M. et al. (2017) Algae drive enhanced darkening of bare ice on the Greenland ice sheet. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(2), 11,463-11,471. (doi: 10.1002/2017GL075958)

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Surface ablation of the Greenland ice sheet is amplified by surface darkening caused by light-absorbing impurities such as mineral dust, black carbon, and pigmented microbial cells. We present the first quantitative assessment of the microbial contribution to the ice sheet surface darkening, based on field measurements of surface reflectance and concentrations of light-absorbing impurities, including pigmented algae, during the 2014 melt season in the southwestern part of the ice sheet. The impact of algae on bare ice darkening in the study area was greater than that of non-algal impurities and yielded a net albedo reduction of 0.038 ± 0.0035 for each algal population doubling. We argue that algal growth is a crucial control of bare ice darkening, and incorporating the algal darkening effect will improve mass balance and sea level projections of the Greenland ice sheet and ice masses elsewhere.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research is part of the Dark Snow Project ( It was funded by Villum Young Investigator Programme grant VKR 023121 to M. S., the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, and more than 700 crowd funders, and. M. S. was additionally supported by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship 657533 (EMoGrIS). We acknowledge crowd funding and media support from Peter Sinclair and field assistance from Gabriel Warren and Martyn Law.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Cameron, Dr Karen
Authors: Stibal, M., Box, J. E., Cameron, K. A., Langen, P. L., Yallop, M. L., Mottram, R. H., Khan, A. L., Molotch, N. P., Chrismas, N. A.M., Quaglia, F. C., Remias, D., Smeets, P. C.J.P., van den Broeke, M. R., Ryan, J. C., Hubbard, A., Tranter, M., van As, D., and Ahlstrøm, A. P.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Geophysical Research Letters
Publisher:American Geophysical Union
ISSN (Online):1944-8007
Published Online:18 November 2017

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