Colour changes in Antarctica often occur. Not long ago, in fact, the snow turned blood red due to microscopic algae. The phenomenon has happened again, but this time they are not in a horror movie scene since the snow seems to have turned green.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey have combined satellite imagery with field observations to detect the current extent of green algae on the continent: they identified over 1,600 distinct algae blooms on snow across the peninsula, with a combined area of 1.9 square kilometres.
“Although the numbers are relatively small on a global scale, in Antarctica, where there is such a small amount of plant life, this amount of biomass is highly significant,” says Matt Davey of Cambridge’s Department of Plant Sciences. The team calculated that algae on the peninsula absorb CO2 levels equivalent to 875,000 average car journeys; Furthermore, most of the algae blooms were five kilometres from a colony of penguins, since bird droppings are an excellent fertilizer (in addition to having exhilarating gas effects).
Polar regions are warming up much faster than other parts of the planet and the team predicted that the coastal areas of Antarctica in the plains they will soon be algae-free during the snow-free summers. Although this loss will likely be offset by a preponderance of large algae blooms when temperatures rise.