Climate change is turning Antarctica green, study finds

Global warming is turning parts of Antarctica green, scientists say

Researchers found that nearly two thirds of the blooms were on small, low lying islands, and said that as the Antarctic Peninsula warms due to rising global temperatures, these islands could lose their summer snow cover and algae - although in terms of mass the majority of snow algae is found in areas where they can spread to higher ground when snow melts.

Researcher Andrew Gray geo-tagging snow algae blooming on Anchorage Island, near Davis Station, Antarctica.

In photos shared by the university team, the typically crisp white landscapes are tinted green by new algae growth, which they believe could create a source of nutrition for other species, their research says.

It identifies 1,679 separate blooms of inexperienced snow algae, which collectively lined an space of 1.9 sq km, equating to a carbon sink of about 479 tonnes a 12 months.

"A lot of people think Antarctica is just snow and penguins".

Nearly two-thirds of the inexperienced algal blooms had been discovered on small, low-lying islands across the north of the peninsula, which has skilled some of probably the most intense heating on this planet, with new temperature data being set this summer time.

"Even though the numbers are relatively small on a global scale, in Antarctica where you have such a small amount of plant life, that amount of biomass is highly significant", Matt Davey from Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences, told AFP. Although each individual alga is microscopic in size, when they grow en masse they turn the snow bright green and can be seen from space. Because algal blooms act as a carbon sink, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere via photosynthesis, understanding its response to climate change is important. Put into context this is the same amount of carbon emitted by about 875,000 average petrol auto journeys in the UK.

They found most of the blooms were on small, low-lying islands that are expected to lose their summer snow under warmer global temperatures.

Warming temperatures could create more "habitable" environments for the algae, which need wet snow to grow in, researchers told CNN. Those losses could be more than offset by larger blooms on the north of the peninsula and the South Shetland Islands, likely resulting in more algae overall.

"It's very dark - a green snow algal bloom will reflect about 45% of light hitting it whereas fresh snow will reflect about 80% of the light hitting it, so it will increase the rate of snow melt in a localized area", he explained.

The Antarctic Peninsula is the part of the region that has experienced the most rapid warming in the latter part of the last century, researchers say. The blooms the researchers mapped can remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as driving a auto a million miles would create.

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