‘Watermelon Snow’: Possibly The Major Cause Behind Alarming Glaciers Melting, Researchers Claim

In the last three years, glaciers in the Arctic region have been melting at an alarming rate. This increased melting in Arctic glaciers has baffled scientists all over the world. So, what could be the major reason that has caused dramatic shrinkage of the Arctic ice?

Researchers Stefanie Lutz, and Liane G. Benning at German Research Center for Geosciences and the University of Leeds, respectively, took 40 samples from 21 glaciers in the European Arctic. The results were astonishing. Their studies were based on the diversity of the algae at the sites, which could possibly be the cause for such an alarming melt.

Melting ice caps and glaciers account for about one-third of recent global sea level rises. The rate is very alarming for the coming future, considering these changes could result in continved sea level rises and possible occurrence of tornadoes and climate change.

The study was published in the Journal Nature Communication and stated the following.

“We estimated that the overall decrease in snow albedo by red pigmented snow algal blooms over the course of one melt season can be 13 percent. This will invariably result in higher melt rates. We argue that such a ‘bio-albedo’ effect has to be considered in climate models.”

Scientists have possibly claimed the record melting occurring on ice sheets in Greenland and other places in the world is caused by “bio-albedo” effect of the algae. Albedo is the effect of reflecting sunlight by white areas covered with ice.

The report shows a 13 percent reduction of the albedo over the course of one melting season caused by red-pigmented snow algal called “watermelon snow.”

It mostly occurs during the warm months, and over the course of the winter, they fall into a dormant state.

Often called “watermelon snow, ” this gets its unique name from an algal bloom. It turns pink and red in color during the warm weather, which kicks away all the sun as the algae’s have the automatic safeguard against the sun.

More heat is absorbed in the area where the snow is coated with the darker colors, as darker color absorbs more heat, resulting in the melting of glaciers at a faster pace. When the ice begins to melt and consequently vanishes from the area, more algae are able to bloom, and the cycle may continue in the wrong direction.

Normally green, the algae turns the snow pink due to a natural sunscreen they produce. This phenomenon then causes the ice to heat up faster and melt more than usual, causing “watermelon snow.”

This effect is most likely relevant as human carbon emissions increase. A recent study suggests that the carbon emissions have reached up to 400ppm this year and are likely to stay there for decades to come.

As the algae need liquid water to sustain and bloom, more melting of ice gives them a better place to flourish. With the “watermelon snow” adding up to a greater extent in increasing the effect of bio-albedo, glaciers in the Arctic region are at high risk and even worse than ever.

Scientists claim this could possibly have some adverse effect on climate change. As glaciers start to melt, sea level rises, which causes the risk of flooding in the area. Studies have shown that the recent earth’s temperature is its highest than any other decades in at least the past 1,300 years. The higher temperature is worsening and leading many types of disasters, including storms, hotter waves, floods, drought, etc.

watermelon snow melting glacier

According to the Nationa Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in 2015, there were about 10 weather and climate disasters in the United States that include storms, floods, drought and other calamities. They caused massive loss of life and property estimated over $1 billion.

Today’s scientist have pointed out the climate change is the biggest global-health threat of the 21st century as it impacts all, especially children, the elderly, low-income communities and minorities. As the temperature starts to change, many consequences soon follow and could be a major threat to all the human civilization.

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