And yet another unaccounted for climate variable: snow algae accelerates melting of Arctic glaciers

Earlier, we published a story about how clouds near airplane contrails get brighter, reflecting more solar radiation to space. Now, on the surface, this new study says that Arctic glaciers are melting faster because red algae is changing the albedo of the ice, increasing uptake of solar radiation. It is just one more example of how complex the climate issue is and how oversimplified looking at one variable, CO2, is.

Cosmopolitan snow algae accelerate the melting of Arctic glaciers

red-snow-algae

Red pigmented snow algae darken the surface of snow and ice in the Arctic. CREDIT Liane G. Benning/GFZ

From GFZ GEOFORSCHUNGSZENTRUM POTSDAM, HELMHOLTZ CENTRE

The role of red pigmented snow algae in melting Arctic glaciers has been strongly underestimated, suggests a study to be published in NATURE Communications on June 22. White areas covered with snow and ice reflect sunlight; the effect is called albedo. It has been known for quite some time that red pigmented snow algae blooming on icy surfaces darken the surface which in turn leads to less albedo and a higher uptake of heat. The new study by Stefanie Lutz, postdoc at the German Research Centre for Geosciences GFZ and at the University of Leeds, shows a 13 per cent reduction of the albedo over the course of one melting season caused by red-pigmented snow algal blooms. “Our results point out that the “bio-albedo” effect is important and has to be considered in future climate models”, says lead author Stefanie Lutz.

The red snow phenomenon occurs mainly in warm months. During late spring and summer, thin layers of meltwater form on ice and snow in the Arctic and on mountains. Liquid water and sunlight are crucial for the growth of snow algae; over the winter season they fall into a dormant state.

In their study, the team led by Stefanie Lutz and Liane G. Benning investigated the biodiversity of snow algae and other microbial communities using high-throughput genetic sequencing. They took about forty samples from 21 glaciers in the Pan-European Arctic. The sampling sites ranged from Greenland over Iceland and Svalbard to the north of Sweden.

Together with UK colleagues they found a high biodiversity within the bacteria, depending on the locations they lived, whereas the biodiversity of the snow algal communities was rather uniform. In other words: Throughout the Arctic regions, it is most probably the same algal species that cause red snow and thus accelerate melting. The blooming leads to a runaway effect: The more glaciers and snow fields thaw the more algae bloom which in turn results in a darkening of the surface which again accelerates melting. Liane G. Benning, head of the GFZ’s section „Interface Geochemistry”, says: „Our work paves the way for a universal model of algal-albedo interaction and a quantification of additional melting caused by algal blooms.”

For years, “bio-albedo has been a niche topic”, says Daniel Remias, biologist at the Fachhochschule Wels, Austria. The snow algae specialist comments on the study: “For the first time ever, researchers have investigated the large-scale effect of microorganisms on the melting of snow and ice the Arctic.” Remias visited the GFZ for an international snow algae meeting organized by Liane G. Benning.

He stresses the interdisciplinary approach of the project: “Steffi Lutz’ and Liane G. Benning’s study for the first time combines microbiological and genetic analyses of red snow algae with geochemical and mineralogical properties as well as with the albedo of their habitat.” An international, UK led team, including the GFZ’s researchers will work this summer on the Greenland Ice Sheet where currently a record-breaking melting rate due to high temperatures is observed. Steffi Lutz, Liane G. Benning and UK colleagues will investigate whether and to what extent pigmented algae contribute to the record melting.

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80 thoughts on “And yet another unaccounted for climate variable: snow algae accelerates melting of Arctic glaciers

  1. I’ve heard of yellow snow..

    That seems to be something different.

    Still…

    Don’t eat the pink snow , either. !!

  2. Connecting all climate changes to a single variable – CO2 – is just as irrational as connecting them all to the whims of one god – Jupiter Pluvius.

    • “Connecting all climate changes to a single variable – CO2 – is just as irrational as connecting them all to the whims of one god – Jupiter Pluvius.”

      the great thing is the science does not try to connect all changes to c02.

      Recall the word feedbacks.

      read the word albedo

      parse this sentecnce

      ” “Our results point out that the “bio-albedo” effect is important and has to be considered in future climate models”, says lead author Stefanie Lutz.”

      if you read any of the IPCC science summaries you will see that the science does not reduce everything to c02.

      we argue about black carbon, land use, land cover change, methane, ozone, c02, all factors
      in increasing temperatures.

      Now we have another variable to add to our understanding.

      Its abosultely hilarious that skeptics think the science blames only c02.

      it doesnt.

      Why would we argue over controlling black carbon if we thought co2 was the only cause?

      • Mosher,
        Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that politics tries to connect all climate change to one variable. After all, the focus of COP-21 was to reduce the use of fossil fuels instead of addressing all the variables that you cite. If science were driving the debate, all of your variables would be taken into account, along with the admission that we might become aware of new influences in the future, such as red algae.

      • Why do you infer/reference only human related issues? What of the sun and orbital mechanics and natural variation? Seems we have had warming and cooling before. “It’s absolutely hilarious …” ???

        This article is not about human caused change, is it?

        Having seen algae in snow and under floating ice for 60 years, it is surprising this isn’t addressed more frequently.

        Hmm. “… controlling black carbon …” Looking at the long history of declining area burned by forest fires, I wonder if natural black carbon releases have decreased due to human intervention.

        Have a good day.

      • DonS said: “But, the science was settled years ago, right? Why do you guys continue to “argue” ?”

        The science that said tobacco was harmful to your health was settled a long time ago. But scientists still argue about exactly how harmful, and exactly how it causes harm.. Why on earth do they argue about settled science?

      • Mr. Schaefer dispkays his ignorance and obviously doesn’t understand how science works. It is never static, never settled. Otherwise we’d still think there are only four elements:Earth, Air, Fire, Water. Or that the Earth is the center of the universe (Aristarchus, Kepler, and Copernicus), that the Earth’s crust was static and that its plates did not drift (Wegener), that hand washing before surgery was a pointless exercise (Semmelweis), that germs didn’t exist because we can’t see them (Leeuwenhoek) to name a few.

        Mr. Schaefer could take a lesson from his own countrymen, and learn when it’s time to challenge “settled science” and challenge it big:

        Dr. Barry Marshall was so determined to convince the world that bacteria — not stress — caused ulcers that he drank a batch of it.
        Five days later he was throwing up, and he had severe stomach inflammation for about two weeks.
        It was just the result he was hoping for. His bold action over 20 years ago symbolized the perseverance Marshall brought to proving a controversial idea — one that gained the ultimate validation Monday as he and Dr. Robin Warren won the Nobel Prize in medicine.

        Source: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9576387/ns/health-health_care/t/two-australians-win-nobel-prize-medicine/#.V23BQ9IrKUk

        THAT’S why settled science should ALWAYS be challenged.

        Once again, your point fails.

      • Anthony said : “Mr. Schaefer dispkays his ignorance and obviously doesn’t understand how science works. It is never static, never settled.”

        Well, it is true that we can’t know anything with absolute certainty, and the whole universe could be an advanced version of the sims on some aliens computer, but that’s beside the point when it comes to what is settled to a point we can act on it with confidence.

        “But, the science was settled years ago, right? Why do you guys continue to “argue” ?”

        This isn’t an argument as to the nature of science and whether or not it can ever be technically settled. It’s implying that because we don’t know everything, and because there are arguments over many details, that we can’t can’t say with confidence that our C02 are the largest contributor to the warming of our planet.

        Too often the “settled science” thing is used as a deflection. “You still argue about stuff, and you wouldn’t if the science was settled, so everything you say is suspect, and you can’t claim to know anything”

      • Anthony said: “THAT’S why settled science should ALWAYS be challenged.”

        Yes, but this “But, the science was settled years ago, right? Why do you guys continue to “argue” ?” isn’t challenging the science, it’s writing off a whole bunch of solid science on the basis that no one would be arguing about anything if we actually knew anything about global warming.

        I think this argument is rather pedantic. Will you commit to never telling anyone that you know something ever again, because we can’t ever know anything for certain?

  3. Algae eats CO2 and turns it into O2 thereby reducing CO2 concentrations. According to some, lower CO2 will reduce temperatures, so they should stick that in their climate models.

      • Phil,
        You seem to be someone who actually knows something about algae, so I’ll ask my question of you. When I was young, I don’t recollect seeing pink mold in shower stalls. It seems that sometime in the ’70s I started to notice it. My question is, do you think that my observation is just poor memory, or is it possible that something has changed in the environment to encourage the pink mold over the more common black mold? Could there be some environmental changes that are encouraging the pink snow algae?

      • Red algae also photosynthesize, there are two varieties, those that use CO2 and those that use bicarbonate ion as their carbon source.

    • Water is turned into O2 (using collected photons and excited Fe and Mg centers) and the resulting protons and electrons are used as reducing agents to turn oxidized carbon (CO2 or bicarbonate) into sugars.

      The oxygen we breath came from dissociated water molecules.

  4. This is a direct positive feedback caused by CO2! The over fertilization of the red pigmented snow algae is causing it to grow out-of-control. This is obviously a steep downward slope where CO2 causes excessive algae growth, melting the Arctic ice, thawing the permafrost, causing a catastrophic release of more CO2!

    This is much worse than we thought.

    • This is much worse than we thought
      ==========================
      much, much worse. as the arctic ice melts, the planet will be thrown out of balance, spin out of orbit and crash into the sun. climate science and the IPCC predict the effect of the sun will be minor. by far the greatest warming will be due to CO2.

  5. The answer is obvious, the co2 and massive warming we are dying from caused the algae, which is melting the ice and therefore “It’s worse than we thought”.

  6. I am always impressed by the wide range of topics covered at this site. I was not aware of this red algae…why would I as I live near the US border (like most Canadians)

  7. Now don’t ya’ll be fegettin that ifffen …. “algae blooming on icy surfaces darken the surface which in turn leads to less albedo and a higher uptake of heat” …….. similar algae blooms in surface waters of lakes and oceans also darken the surface which in turn leads to less albedo and a higher uptake of heat, to wit:

  8. . The blooming leads to a runaway effect: The more glaciers and snow fields thaw the more algae bloom which in turn results in a darkening of the surface which again accelerates melting.

    [emphasis is mine]
    I would think there would be negative feedback on algae blooms, else algae would have choked the oceans by now.

  9. An international, UK led team, including the GFZ’s researchers will work this summer on the Greenland Ice Sheet where currently a record-breaking melting rate due to high temperatures is observed. Steffi Lutz, Liane G. Benning and UK colleagues will investigate whether and to what extent pigmented algae contribute to the record melting.

    What ‘record breaking’ melting are they referring to? Greenland Ice accumulation is quite above average this year:

  10. From Wikipedia
    The red algae, or Rhodophyta (/roʊˈdɒfᵻtə/ roh-DOF-fit-tə or /ˌroʊdəˈfaɪtə/ ROH-də-FY-tə; from Ancient Greek: ῥόδον rhodon, “rose” and φυτόν phyton, “plant”), are one of the oldest groups of eukaryotic algae,[2] and also one of the largest, with about 5,000–6,000 species[3] of mostly multicellular, marine algae, including many notable seaweeds. Other references indicate as many as 10,000 species;[4] more detailed counts indicate about 4,000 in about 600 genera (3,738 marine species in 546 genera in 10 orders, plus the unclassifiable; and 164 freshwater species in 30 genera in eight orders).[5]

  11. And then there’s biology.

    Michael Mann is a photosynthesis d#nier. 97% of biologists believe in photosynthesis, but 0% of climate models properly handle the CO2 fertilization effect.

  12. Talking of Arctic and ice does anyone know whats going on with the data. It’s being going crazy for about a week now and I thought they had fixed the outage but clearly not.

    • LdB

      Talking of Arctic and ice does anyone know whats going on with the data. It’s being going crazy for about a week now and I thought they had fixed the outage but clearly not.

      I follow Cryosphere – out of the University of Illinois – which has on-line sea ice area information since 1979. But it had several data “jumps” in mid-April 2016, then failed completely May 5 2016 and has not updated their on-line records nor their plots since then.

      The ice area “sensed” has been stuck at 4.688 million km^2. S, of course, the apparent anomaly has crept higher and higher every day as the “measured area” stays the same but the historical average keep changing. Same for Antarctic sea ice.

      • RACookPE1978 June 23, 2016 at 7:29 am
        I follow Cryosphere – out of the University of Illinois – which has on-line sea ice area information since 1979. But it had several data “jumps” in mid-April 2016, then failed completely May 5 2016 and has not updated their on-line records nor their plots since then.

        Based on the F18 data the equivalent CT arctic value today is ~7.8 million sq km^2 down to ~7.5 by saturday.
        Which gives an anomaly for today of ~1.5 million sq km^2.

  13. Another OMG, it’s worse than we thought; so we need more money to put this doom escalating concept into the models to show the end is even close than we thought. That being: 2̶0̶1̶0̶ ̶2̶0̶1̶2̶ ̶2̶0̶1̶3̶ ̶ err 2̶0̶2̶5̶ 2̶0̶3̶5̶ ̶ ok 2050.

    • It does taste like watermelon, believe it or not, at least the variety that occurs in Colorado.
      Watermelon snow is what we called it.

  14. I have never seen the effect myself.
    For those who know:
    Does the snow really turn that vivid shade of pink, as shown in the lead photo? Or is the photo a little over dramatic?

    • Yes it does change to pink. Hiking in the Colorado Rockies in the summer, many of the remaining snowbanks above 10K feet turn pink.

  15. Bad algae. Naughty. Very, very naughty algae. Not doing what climate scientists think they should do. They are so totally in the dog-house, and will not get funded until they reform.

    • Yes it’s common and does turn the snow pink. There are historical references from as far back as the Geek period.

      [Which began about 1980 years after the Roman era. .mod]

      • I guess I should check speelling. :) It was supposed to be Greek. Wikipedia says that Aristotle wrote about it. Maybe my error wasn’t as wrong as I thought. Couldn’t he be considered a Greek geek?

    • Will the camouflage of polar bears be ruined as they traverse pink snow? Will seals laugh when they try to creep up on them? Perhaps evolutionary pressures will produce seasonally variable bears, shedding their white coats for pink in the summer.
      To the climate-challenged any adverse effect on these totemic species will be our fault.

  16. We know from satellite measurements that photosynthesis is increasing, specifically in semi-dry areas, which shows in a net -increasing- sink rate of about 1 GtC/year by the biosphere (based on oxygen measurements).

    Is there any indication that the red algue blooms in the oceans and ice sheets are increasing – or decreasing? If not, there is no influence on climate at all.

    I can remember to have been on snow in Norway in the 1970’s, which with every step colored red…

    • WP just lost a comment about my sighting of colored bacteria in the US North Cascades, I don’t have time to retype it now, I’ll do it later tonight.

  17. Lots of amusing comments but I have one that I have been pondering.
    Snow algae is a “green algae” coloured red. (not a spelling error as I’m CDN) :). As such it photosynthesizes CO2. During the cold winters the algae go dormant and are buried in snow. When it warms the algae come to life and release cells which travel to the surface of the snow where the do the pink watermelon dance. However, the original algae are still buried and they consumed CO2 from the air buried in the snow.(Wikipedia)
    Similar green algae grow in ice and consume the CO2 eventually dying off when the nutrients are depleted and as light levels decrease.
    Methanogens are microrganisms that produce methane in anoxic (anaerobic) conditions. They use CO2 and H2 to generate methane.They have been found buried deep in the ice of Greenland. A recent study indicated that there are aerobic methanogens as well.
    These are 3 organisms shown to live on and in ice and consume CO2.
    My hypothesis is that they all work to reduce the CO2 trapped in ice.
    Red snow algae above in the firn of the Antarctic Ice sheet would consume the CO2 diffusing from below and from the atmosphere above, The ice algae in the ice below would continue to photosynthesize consuming the available CO2 until light and nutrients resulted in its death. The methanogens which aren’t dependent on light and are present in the deep ice would continue to consume any CO2.
    I have not found any studies that examine this nor have I read anywhere how the ice core CO2 data accounts for this.

    • DCS said:

      However, the original algae are still buried and they consumed CO2 from the air buried in the snow.(Wikipedia)

      OH MY MY, …… do those “CO2 measuring” ice-core researchers know about those hungry algae?

    • DCS,

      The survival of different types of bacteria in ice depends of the type and the ice temperature…

      There is an interesting work on that matter:
      http://www.pnas.org/content/101/13/4631.full.pdf

      For the Vostok ice core, see point K. At -40°C some bacteria can survive (hundred)thousands of years, but the only remaining activity is DNA repair. The carbon source indeed is CO2 and the bacteria use the oxidation of NH4 as energy source. That is transformed into N2O, where the N2O formation and CO2 use has a fixed ratio. If we take that as base, the total CO2 use is less than 1 ppmv for ice parts with huge inclusions of dust and bacteria.

      Interesting stuff and amazing how some life forms can survive in such circumstances, but hardly influencing CO2 levels in Antarctic ice cores.

      Things in the Greenland ice cores are quite different: small inclusions of sea salt, including carbonates, normally have no influence on CO2 levels, but (in)frequent highly acidic volcanic ash from nearby Iceland gives in-situ CO2 formation, increasing with the (now abandoned) wet measurement technique of the early days where ice samples were melted and CO2 extracted.

      • See my response above and the very interesting reference therein.

        Algue are mostly found back in coastal ice fields, much less in (far) inland and high altitude ice. Temperature also is a huge point: some bacteria can survive -40°C for extreme long periods, but that is restricted to DNA repair. These are mostly found with dust deposits as was the case during the main glacial periods where there was little moisture in the air and (desert) dust could blow in from very long distances.

      • FE said:

        some bacteria can survive -40°C for extreme long periods, but that is restricted to DNA repair.

        OH MY MY, …… dats vunderful news to know that individual bacterium have evolved DNA that tells them when all or parts of their own DNA gets FUBAR …… and also the DNA that is “coded” to repair any or all parts of their FUBARed DNA.

        Now I’m here to tell ya that that Anti-FUBAR DNA should be extracted from those bacterium post haste ……. and be made #1 Priority for use in all “gene replacement therapy” medical issues for correcting and/or repairing all those nasty biological problems that us human are subject to.

        It must be all of that “DNA repairing” activity during the NH wintertime ….. that produces humongous quantities of CO2 that is emitted into the atmosphere by the trapped bacteria in the cold and frozen soil, permafrost and ice ….. and which clearly explains the “saw tooth” shape of the Keeling Curve Graph

        Eritas

  18. Phweee!!! I’ve been saying this for over a decade ever since seeing the red- and green-algaed snows of the Antarctic Peninsula melting faster at the end of summer (early in the summer the algae is buried under the new winter snows do doesn’t bloom until later).

    But, at the time I first thought the whole algae thing was a huge unknown in the calculations, it was because someone was saying the algae are sucking up CO2 as well, so basically that opened up my eyes to the entire microbial and algal worlds are ignored in the climate equation and at the end of the day, they make up most of the living things on Earth… Albedo vs respiration – could cancel eachother out. ???

    • While the specific growth and wane of red (and green) algue is not known, the CO2 balance of all life on earth is known within reasonable limits: that can be deduced from the oxygen balance: most life forms either use CO2 and produce oxygen or use oxygen and produce CO2.

      By looking at the overall oxygen use over the years and subtracting what was used of fossil fuel burning, the remainder is what the biosphere as a whole does. That shows that the biosphere is a small, but growing, producer of O2, thus a sink for CO2. The earth is greening, despite humans using more feed and food…

      See:
      http://www.sciencemag.org/content/287/5462/2467.short
      and
      http://www.bowdoin.edu/~mbattle/papers_posters_and_talks/BenderGBC2005.pdf

  19. It looks like these folks have a web site about their work, see http://darksnow.org/black-and-bloom-microbial-processes-darken-and-accelerate-the-melting-of-the-greenland-ice-sheet/

    A couple bios that stick out:

    Dr. Jason Box has been investigating Greenland ice sheet sensitivity to weather and climate as part of 23 expeditions to Greenland since 1994. His time camping on the inland ice exceeds 1 year. Year 2012 brought a deeper level of insight as the scientific perspective shifts to examine the interactions ice with atmospheric and ocean systems, including the role of fire in darkening the cryosphere. As part of his academic enterprise, Box has authored or co-authored 50+ peer-reviewed publications related to Greenland cryosphere-climate interactions. Box instructed climatology courses at The Ohio State University 2003-2012. Box is now a Professor at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS). Box was a contributing author to the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 4th assessment report. Box is also the former Chair of the Cryosphere Focus Group of the American Geophysical Union.

    Peter Sinclair is an independent, award winning, graphic artist, animator, and videographer now specializing in climate, energy, and related politics. He is arguably the internet’s leading climate video blogger with 15 thousand subscribers to his video climate blog http://climatecrocks.com/. As of mid Nov., 2012, the Climate Crock series contains more than 100 videos and 9 in the Yale forum series, titled “This is Not Cool”. Sinclair’s most popular videos have gotten 80,000 views. The total viewership nears 2.5 million total views. Sinclair will join the expedition to shoot video and sound to produce video shorts to be posted online and pushed toward TV media.

  20. I guess it’s time for someone to propose an “Algae Tax”.

    Here’s a few more to add to “and-yet-another-unaccounted-for-climate-variable”.
    (Isn’t it amazing how many variables are not entered into the climate models yet they remain so precise?)

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/05/12/tisdale-an-unsent-memo-to-james-hansen/#comment-985181

    Gunga Din says:
    May 14, 2012 at 1:21 pm
    joeldshore says:
    May 13, 2012 at 6:10 pm
    Gunga Din: The point is that there is a very specific reason involving the type of mathematical problem it is as to why weather forecasts diverge from reality. And, the same does not apply to predicting the future climate in response to changes in forcings. It does not mean such predictions are easy or not without significant uncertainties, but the uncertainties are of a different and less severe type than you face in the weather case.
    As for me, I would rather hedge my bets on the idea that most of the scientists are right than make a bet that most of the scientists are wrong and a very few scientists plus lots of the ideologues at Heartland and other think-tanks are right…But, then, that is because I trust the scientific process more than I trust right-wing ideological extremism to provide the best scientific information.
    =========================================================
    What will the price of tea in China be each year for the next 100 years? If Chinese farmers plant less tea, will the replacement crop use more or less CO2? What values would represent those variables? Does salt water sequester or release more or less CO2 than freshwater? If the icecaps melt and increase the volume of saltwater, what effect will that have year by year on CO2? If nations build more dams for drinking water and hydropower, how will that impact CO2? What about the loss of dry land? What values do you give to those variables? If a tree falls in the woods allowing more growth on the forest floor, do the ground plants have a greater or lesser impact on CO2? How many trees will fall in the next 100 years? Values, please. Will the UK continue to pour milk down the drain? How much milk do other countries pour down the drain? What if they pour it on the ground instead? Does it make a difference if we’re talking cow milk or goat milk? Does putting scraps of cheese down the garbage disposal have a greater or lesser impact than putting in the trash or composting it? Will Iran try to nuke Israel? Pakistan India? India Pakistan? North Korea South Korea? In the next 100 years what other nations might obtain nukes and launch? Your formula will need values. How many volcanoes will erupt? How large will those eruptions be? How many new ones will develop and erupt? Undersea vents? What effect will they all have year by year? We need numbers for all these things. Will the predicted “extreme weather” events kill many people? What impact will the erasure of those carbon footprints have year by year? Of course there’s this little thing called the Sun and its variability. Year by year numbers, please. If a butterfly flaps its wings in China, will forcings cause a tornado in Kansas? Of course, the formula all these numbers are plugged into will have to accurately reflect each ones impact on all of the other values and numbers mentioned so far plus lots, lots more. That amounts to lots and lots and lots of circular references. (And of course the single most important question, will Gilligan get off the island before the next Super Moon? Sorry. 8-)
    There have been many short range and long range climate predictions made over the years. Some of them are 10, 20 and 30 years down range now from when the trigger was pulled. How many have been on target? How many are way off target?
    Bet your own money on them if want, not mine or my kids or their kids or their kids etc.

  21. “over the winter season they fall into a dormant state.”
    Indeed they do, they are covered with new snow, the same way that the soot is covered with new snow during the winter.
    In 100 years it will turn out as a layer in the ice, and it might be different from other layers or it might not.

  22. Red snow? Oh nooo! The first time I noticed red snow was high in the Colorado Rockies during a summer climb. My climbing partner said it was algae. It happened more than 40 years ago, and I’ve noticed it on and off ever since. I guess we’re supposed to be alarmed by the red snow and the “It’s worse than we thought” meme that goes with it.

    I’ll file this story with the alarmist stories about “thermokarst lakes.” You know, those lakes at high latitudes and altitudes that trap methane from decaying vegetation beneath the ice in winter. Drill a hole in the ice, strike a match and whoosh – you got a natural blow torch. Don’t stand to close or you’ll singe your eyebrows. We’re supposed to be alarmed because, well, you know, it’s a flame and it’s hot, and methane traps heat just like CO2, and OMG! There’s just so much to be worried about, my head may explode. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sU-9JucyCQI

    • I’ve seen it repeatedly both in the Arctic (Spitzbergen) and on mountain glacier. It’s actually rather common

  23. As always when some sensational new discovery about glaciers pops up I go back and check A E Nordenskiölds descriptions of his expeditions to Greenland in 1870 and 1883, the two first times ever that scientists actually set foot on, and studied, the inland ice. And what did I find on p. 218 of “Den andra Dicksonska expeditionen till Grönland” (published 1885):
    “…my companion professor Berggren then [1870] discovered that this [dust] deposit was the substrate for a peculiar ice flora, consisting of a large number of microscopic plants, of which some are also found on the ice itself, and, however puny they might seem, surely play an important role in nature, since by their dark color they absorb sunlight far better than the blue-white ice. Probably we have, to no small extent, these plants to thank for, that the ice-cap that once covered all of Scandinavia has melted away” (my translation from Swedish)
    So what else is new in Climateland?

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