Inconvenient finding: Melting sea ice may lead to more life in the sea

From the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN DENMARK and the “I can hear sea ice fanatic heads exploding already” department comes this bit of good news.

Melting sea ice may lead to more life in the sea

When spring arrives in the Arctic, both snow and sea ice melt, forming melt ponds on the surface of the sea ice. Every year, as global warming increases, there are more and larger melt ponds.

Melt ponds cover vast areas in the Arctic. CREDIT Heidi Louise Sørensen/SDU

Melt ponds provide more light and heat for the ice and the underlying water, but now it turns out that they may also have a more direct and potentially important influence on life in the Arctic waters.

Mats of algae and bacteria can evolve in the melt ponds, which can provide food for marine creatures. This is the conclusion of researchers in the periodical, Polar Biology.

Own little ecosystems

  • The melt ponds can form their own little ecosystem. When all the sea ice melts during the summer, algae and other organisms from melt ponds are released into the surrounding seawater. Some of this food is immediately ingested by creatures living high up in the water column. Other food sinks to the bottom and gets eaten by seabed dwellers, explains Heidi Louise Sørensen, who is the principal author of the scientific article, continuing:
  • Given that larger and larger areas of melt ponds are being formed in the Arctic, we can expect the release of more and more food for creatures in the polar sea.

Heidi Louise Sørensen studied the phenomenon in a number of melt ponds in North-Eastern Greenland as part of her PhD thesis at University of Southern Denmark (SDU).

Bo Thamdrup and Ronnie Glud of SDU, and Erik Jeppesen and Søren Rysgaard of Aarhus University also contributed to the work.

Food for seals and sea cucumbers

In the upper part of the water column it is mainly krill and copepods that benefit from the nutrient-rich algae and bacteria from melt ponds. These creatures are eaten by various larger animals, ranging from amphipods to fish, seals and whales. Deeper down, it is seabed dwellers such as sea cucumbers and brittle stars that benefit from the algae that sink down.

For some time now, researchers have been aware that simple biological organisms can evolve in melt ponds – they may even support very diverse communities. But so far it has been unclear why sometimes there are many organisms in the ponds, and on other occasions virtually none.

According to the new study, ‘nutrients’ is the keyword. When nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen find their way into a melt pond, entire communities of algae and micro-organisms can flourish.

From the Siberian tundra

Nutrients can find their way into a melt pond in a variety of ways, For example, they can be washed in with waves of sea water; they can be transported by dust storms from the mainland (for example, from the Siberian tundra); or they can be washed with earth from the coast out on the ice, when it rains.

Finally, migratory birds or other larger animals resting on the ice can leave behind sources of nutrient.

  • Climate change is accompanies by more storms and more precipitation, and we must expect that more nutrients will be released from the surroundings into the melt ponds. These conditions, plus the fact that the distribution of areas of melt ponds is increasing, can contribute to increased productivity in plant and animal life in the Arctic seas, says Professor Ronnie Glud of the Department of Biology at SDU.

Warmer and more windy

There are further factors that may potentially contribute to increased productivity in the Arctic seas:

  • When the sea ice disappears, light can penetrate down into the water.
  • water. When it gets warmer on the mainland, this creates more melt water, which can flow out into the sea, carrying nutrients in its wake.

BOX What the researchers did

Six melt ponds in Young Sound in North-Eastern Greenland were selected: two natural and four artificial basins. Phosphorous and nitrogen (nutrients, which are also known from common garden fertilizer) were added in various combinations to four ponds, while two served as control ponds. For a period of up to 13 days Heidi Louise Sørensen measured many different parameters in the melt water, including the content of Chlorophyll a: a pigment that enables algae to absorb energy from light. The chlorophyll content of the phosphorus- and nitrogen-enriched ponds was 2 to 10 times higher than in the control ponds and testifies to an increased content of algae.

BOX This is why the number of melt ponds is on the rise

Global warming is melting more and more sea ice, potentially forming an increasing number of melt ponds. NASA satellites have just measured the smallest ever distribution of sea ice in the Arctic. The melt ponds make the ice darker, so it absorbs, rather than reflects light and thereby it heats. This accelerates the melting process. Satellite photos show that areas with melt ponds are getting bigger each year.


The paper:

97 thoughts on “Inconvenient finding: Melting sea ice may lead to more life in the sea

    • The next phase is to get the nomenclature changed
      Global Warming = The Warming Globe
      Climate Change = The Changing Climate
      Weather Extremes = Weather

      • Phaw!!

        That’s taking things to the extreme isn’t it?

        Weather Extremes = Weather?

        That will never do, the alarmists couldn’t possibly agree to it. What happens if it rains tomorrow? It’s bound to be Noah’s encore.

    • There is a constant action and feedback loop going on between available CO2 volume and life. More CO2, more life, results in less CO2 and less life. Man-made input can affect this loop but it will only result in a bigger feedback. Natural inputs are far larger.

      In general, more atmospheric CO2 is good for our planet. The pluses far outweigh the downside risks.

      However, like all significant change, there is a tendency by many who really have no natural advantage in society, in that they do not offer anything that society wants or needs, to distort regulations to get advantage over others. Business that follows such trends supports these regulations in order to seek government based rent. Government always pays because it can collect at the point of a gun or print and debase.

      Major changes can affect an economy to the point of chaos as essential services are not funded as funds are diverted to service rent seekers.

      Healthy economies have few rent seekers.

  1. Phosphorous and nitrogen were added….

    Makes your head explode…doesn’t it

    Breaking…..scientists discover tomatoes grow faster if fertilized

    • No wonder Denmark has such ridiculously high tax rates. They are funding ridiculous research. At least they have symmetry.

    • Phosphorus–the element–has two o’s; phosphorous–the adjective, indicating a compound of phosphorus–has three.

      Interesting article, though I question the offhand assumption that the melt ponds increase year by year.

    • Yeah, Duh! Like the fact that Earth in Hot House mode is always lush, lots of plants, lots of animals (herbivores and omnivores) living on those plants, and lot of carnivores and omnivores living on the herbivores.

      Most people don’t realize an inter-glacial is relatively sparse, just not as bad as a full-on glacial.

  2. Why would the warmista’s heads explode? After all, they do not view more life as a good thing. They are anti-CO2, which is anti-life.

      • Hmmmmmm, Green, from a frozen wasteland.

        Did anyone tell our green cousins this? Or do they just ignore the fact that sunlight/heat/CO2/O2 are givers of life, at least to us normal homo sapiens?

        Hmmmmmm, maybe they associate green with gangrene.

        Thats it! The solution!

        They are all Syphilitic, infested with gangrene, and only see green as evil.

        Job done.

        I’ll get my own coat thanks……………

      • HotScot,
        The ‘greens’ are the race of ‘humans’ who escaped from Green-land. Since now they inhabit much warmer habitats, they genuinely suffer from the thermophobia, i.e. they are genetically predisposed to be born as the frigophiles, hence the ‘greens’ tendency to proclaim even the slightest of the warming as catastrophic event for the all living creatures, and the cause of every storm, flood, drought, more or less snow, more or less ice, etc, i.e every imaginable ‘run of the mill’ weather event.

    • A lesser amount of Arctic sea ice , similar to pre-LIA norms, would be totally and absolutely beneficial to everyone trying to live in the Arctic region.

      Transport, commerce, fishing would all become the norm, rather than a rare occurrence for a short period of the year.

      Unfortunately, the AMO is turning, and the promised RECOVERY from the extremes of the LIA has paused, may not actually eventuate

  3. The extraction of Carbon from atmospheric Carbon Dioxide is necessary to sustain life.

    Ice does not promote photosynthesis. The melt water pools allow for algae to extract the carbon that carbon based life forms need.

    CO2 is the base of the food chain for all carbon based life forms.

  4. As if melting arctic ice is a bad thing. One commenter in particular thinks it is a sign of the end of the world 🙂

  5. Interesting thesis. But countered by other recent work showing that ice algae (which grow on the underside of sea ice without a nutrient dependency) are up to 50% of primary productivity in the high Arctic. Unsurprisingly those papers said lower levels of summer sea ice would therefore reduce Arctic ocean productivity. That of course ignores the other 50% of Arctic phytoplanckton and alge primary productivity that are free water rather than sea ice dependent. IMO there is so much yet to learn about Arctic ice, ice algae, ocean algae and meltpond algae that both the pro and con ‘conclusions’ are more in the realm of speculation.

    • But countered by other recent work showing that ice algae …….. are up to 50% of primary productivity in the high Arctic.

      Then, IMLO, that “other recent work” is a prime example of FUBAR researchers claiming a fictitious “fear-mongering percentage” in a silly attempt to give credibility to their claims.

  6. It should be obvious that less sea ice is a good thing, except in Cuckoo CACAland.

    Unfortunately, the trend is upward for sea ice in both hemispheres. It could accelerate steeply once the effects of the super El Nino of 2015-16 are blown off.

    • BTW, even in the pack of lies perpetrated by corrupt NOAA’s book-cooking NSIDC, Arctic sea ice has grown for three straight days now. Its phony “data” show 14.140 million square kilometers for March 24, 14.111 M sq. km. for March 25 and 14.093 M sq. km. for March 26, but 14.100 M sq. km. for March 27, 14.120 M sq. km. for March 28 and 14.140 M sq. km. for March 29, ie back to the March 26 level.

      Griff’s “certain” prediction for a new record low Arctic sea ice extent this summer is looking ever iffier.

  7. I’m guessing that the extra melt pond algae makes a small contribution compared with the already existing algae in the sea.

    What keeps this marine ecosystem going are organisms you can’t see with the naked eye: microscopic phytoplankton and ice algae. Come March, the sun rises low in the Arctic horizon, and it won’t set until six months later in September. During this bright period, Arctic algae and phytoplankton kick into overdrive, using photosynthesis to use the 24-hour sunlight to make food. link

    I suspect a PR flack is making this paper sound more important than it actually is.

    • cB, good thought. Melt ponds are small water volumes compared to Arctic summer surface waters in the photic zone, and summer ice bottoms. Still, kudos to this European Uni for not being AGW alarmist. A small breath of fresh air. To show how twisted European Uni PR things get, see essay Good Bad News in ebook Blowing Smoke.

    • A little about Arctic light from a Canuk

      Watch the sunset, anywhere. Just after sunset there is still plenty of light, enough to play baseball. That is what the Arctic looks like even if the sun is technically down.

      It doesn’t rise and stay up except at the Pole. Each day the sun gets closer and closer to the horizon then drops away again. There is a lot of light during ‘dark season’.

      Once the sun is up and the parties are over, it goes around just below the horizon so it looks a lot like sunrise even if it is technically ‘down’. So in summer a village may have 22 hours of sun-up and 2 hrs of sun just below the horizon. There is a lot of light in the Arctic.

      • Perhaps I misunderstand you but your statement as I read it is wrong.

        Anywhere north of the Arctic Circle has at least one day where the sun does not go below the horizon. link I’ve been there and seen it for months at a time.

      • There is a lot of light in the Arctic.

        Technically all places get the same amount of daylight time, an average of about 12 hours a day. It is more evenly spread at the equator, and less evenly at the poles is all.

  8. “Every year, as global warming increases, ”
    I’m puzzled – so is “global warming” now accepted on this site, after the 17/18 years of cooling? Or is the reference solely down to the recent El Nino and we’re now cooling again? Can someone please enlighten me?

    • Look carefully at the lead post. The quote is from the Uni PR. The irony being pointed out is that a good thing supposedly came from this warming, again according to the Uni PR.

  9. “Heidi Louise Sørensen studied the phenomenon in a number of melt ponds in North-Eastern Greenland as part of her PhD thesis at University of Southern Denmark (SDU).”

    Invalid scientific method. No models involved.

  10. The next climate science re-discovery it is going to be … Watermelon snow!!!

    Known since Aristotle, this algae is waiting to be rediscovered by some eco-nuts who will come down from the mountains shouting “Gaia is bleeding!”

    BTW, I find this paragraph from wiki particularly interesting:

    In May 1818, four ships sailed from England to search for the Northwest Passage and chart the Arctic coastline of North America. Severe weather made them finally turn the ships back, but the expedition made valuable contributions to science. Captain John Ross noticed crimson snow that streaked the white cliffs like streams of blood as they were rounding Cape York on the northwest coast of Greenland. A landing party stopped and brought back samples to England. The Times wrote about this discovery on December 4, 1818:[3]

    “ Captain Sir John Ross has brought from Baffin’s Bay a quantity of red snow, or rather snow-water, which has been submitted to chymical analysis in this country, in order to the discovery of the nature of its colouring matter. Our credulity is put to an extreme test upon this occasion, but we cannot learn that there is any reason to doubt the fact as stated. Sir John Ross did not see any red snow fall; but he saw large tracts overspread with it. The colour of the fields of snow was not uniform; but, on the contrary, there were patches or streaks more or less red, and of various depths of tint. The liquor, or dissolved snow, is of so dark a red as to resemble red port wine. It is stated, that the liquor deposits a sediment; and that the question is not answered, whether that sediment is of an animal or vegetable nature. It is suggested that the colour is derived from the soil on which the snow falls: in this case, no red snow can have been seen on the ice.

    • I get the same color floating at the edge of my from my Bass/Bluegill pond. The county agent says it’s blue-green algae and can sometimes be toxic, though I’ve never lost a fish to it, even in extreme drought.

  11. One more piece of good news. By the time the melt ponds appear the sun is already at such a low angel of inclination that the water may reflect more (not less) of the incoming sunlight than the surrounding ice. This provides a negative feedback (not positive) and causes less ice melt than without ice ponds.

    • Yes, it still hasn’t sunk in to researchers that the meltwater ponds only look dark because the reflection is specular and concentrated in a narrow sheath that requires the observer being in the right place to observe it. Depending on the angle of incidence of the sunlight, the reflection from water can be higher than from snow or ice. These broad-brush statements betray that biologists haven’t been introduced to Fresnel’s equation for reflection.

      • Anyone who has looked out over a body of water near sunrise or sunset can easily grasp this concept.

      • Like most warmists, McClod confuses wit with intelligence.
        The problem is he doesn’t have much of either.

    • I’m going to guess that you actually believe there is something wrong with that statement.
      It’s a hoax.
      Even if it isn’t a hoax it’s nothing to worry about.
      Ergo, there is nothing to worry about.

  12. Forrest,
    I’ve felt for some time that decreasing cloudiness is a better explanation for melting ice than the slight increase in atmospheric temperatures above ice that is well below the melting point.

    • Forrest and lenbilen,

      I haven’t taken the time to explore the historical situation with respect to cloudiness in the Arctic. The Arctic has a reputation for being cloudy (hence the need for Viking sailors to use their famous sunstone), but that could be changing.

      Anecdotally, when I first got interested in the general global warming topic, I found a USGS website for Glacier National Park (MT). It claimed that most of the glaciers were in retreat. The exception to that was on the north side of the park, where there were two ice fields that had essentially been stable for a century. What that told me was that glaciers exposed to potential sunlight were melting, while those in the shadow of the mountains were not. That is, it wasn’t ambient air temperature that was the culprit, but instead, heating from sunlight. That particular website disappeared not long after I found it and the current one does not support my recollection of the stable ice fields. This appears to be another example of politically correct ‘facts’ being released by government agencies.

  13. Heidi Louise Sørensen, Bo Thamdrup, Ronnie Glud, Erik Jeppesen and Søren Rysgaard — they’ve got the coolest names in Denmark, don’t they?

  14. Absolutely.
    Having seen the underside of the melting Ice Pack & the associated explosion of Life associated with the Spring dozens of times, I can personally confirm this.

  15. More examples of beneficial natural climatic changes and variability…… Isn’t it a grand design.

  16. I’m worried — if too much arctic sea ice melts, then frozen, prehistoric animals will awaken from their long snoozes to devastate civilization as we know it. No matter how you slice it, therefore, climate change MUST be catastrophic. (^_^)

    Sheer mythology, you say? — Well, we ARE talking about climate … “science” … aren’t we?

  17. In Ayr, Australia, after Cyclone Debbie struck and passed, a dead bull shark was found in a large puddle. I pass this along not really knowing what to say about it.

    Eugene WR Gallun

  18. A lesser amount of Arctic sea ice, similar to pre-LIA norms, would be totally and absolutely beneficial to everyone trying to live in the Arctic region.

    Transport, commerce, fishing would all become the norm, rather than a rare occurrence for a short period of the year.

    Unfortunately, the AMO is turning, and the promised RECOVERY from the extremes of the LIA has paused, and may not actually eventuate.

  19. and it took A University to realise that if you let your (home) deep-freezer defrost/melt. its contents will come alive and variously crawl, walk or gently float or fly away.

    How comforted I am to be surrounded by such genius as we head into the future…

  20. Well, we’re making progress here…
    I see everyone now accepts that the arctic sea ice is thinning and decreasing.

    This may be a benefit for some arctic species… if not for polar bears, walrus and belugas.

    but now we need to return to the question – why is it continuing to decline?
    and what effect does that have on weather systems and the earth’s climate?

    (extent and volume still at record lows as the melt season starts)

    • Griff:

      You ask

      but now we need to return to the question – why is it continuing to decline?
      and what effect does that have on weather systems and the earth’s climate?

      I answer.

      The Arctic sea ice varies as does precipitation, temperature, etc.. This is called weather.
      Weather in one place does affect weather elsewhere, but not much.


      • “The variation downward in extent and volume since 1979 is not ‘weather’.

        But climate is 30 years of ‘weather’.

        Therefore, you are basing apocalypse on two data points…

    • Don’t you read anything that is written, bonehead?

      “Unfortunately, the AMO is turning, and the promised RECOVERY from the extremes of the LIA has paused, and may not actually eventuate.”

      You have been shown MANY, MANY times that current levels at far above the Holocene norm.

      But you just DENY CLIMATE CHANGE.

      Wilful ignorance is the ONLY thing you have in your handbag, griff.

      • And you do not seem to have taken on board that conditions causing low ice in the past don’t apply now.

        This is beyond the scale of natural variation and cycles affecting the ice.

        I wait in vain for any skeptic explanation of why this low, why now… well over 70 years since the low of the last cycle and still heading down… lowest extent and volume seen in all records since 1850… now with low extent and thickness through the winter and increase in winter storms over ice cap…

        This year is already set to be in top lowest. Maybe even beating 2012, given high pressure/sun at critical point in melt season.

      • Replying to Griff (his comments bolded and italicized):

        And you do not seem to have taken on board that conditions causing low ice in the past don’t apply now.

        What “conditions” might you be referring to? Absence of humans or abscence of current human technology? Show me causal proof that humans and their current technology are making the difference you claim, rather than just postulating this premise as a foregone conclusion.

        This is beyond the scale of natural variation and cycles affecting the ice.

        How do arrive at this, other than by parroting the standard line? Natural variation moves both up and down, in terms of temperature and in terms of ice making, as illustrated by this graph:

        Notice that I have indicated only four major points during the past 3500 years that seem to be at serious odds with your claim. There are more such points – just look at the peaks above the red horizontal line, going back to ten thousand years ago — there are at least eleven other additional times when temperature was as high or quite higher than today, via NATURAL VARIATION.

        I wait in vain for any skeptic explanation of why this low, why now… well over 70 years since the low of the last cycle and still heading down… lowest extent and volume seen in all records since 1850…

        What is vain about your waiting is the vanity in embracing your failure to see the greater pattern over a time span much, much longer than 70 years and the vanity in embracing your failure to see cycles that have much, much longer periods. You are confining your view ONLY to modern, instrumental recording over a very, very small cyclic period, and you are overlooking the geological records ascertained by other means over these much, much longer cyclic periods. Expand your view, and you might better grasp the big picture, instead of entertaining a myopic view based on intervals of a few human life-span generations.

      • Griff,

        “Top lowest”? Now you’re already weaseling back from your prior prognostication that 2017 was “sure” to be the lowest “evah!”. Since, how could it not be, starting form such a low winter maximum. That was your “thought process”, if your mental function may be so dignified.

        For over a decade now, the Arctic sea ice trend has been up. And it’s at least as likely for that to continue as for a renewed decrease to occur.

        Unfortunately, since less ice is good and more is bad.

      • “This is beyond the scale of natural variation and cycles affecting the ice.”

        WRONG. It is very much in line with NATURAL cycles.

        Now off you trot, back to your “make-it-up-as you-go-along” hallucinogen driven imaginings.

    • Griff:

      I write to ask an explanation of your astonishing claim that

      The variation downward in extent and volume [of Arctic sea ice] since 1979 is not ‘weather’.

      How do you know it is not weather?
      If you know it it is not weather then what is it and how do you know it is what you claim it is?


    • Griff,

      The now trend is not for thinning and decreasing. For the past 12 years, the trend has been up. Arctic sea ice extent is clearly bottoming, to anyone not blinded by his or her cultic faith.

      Also, are you now prepared to revise your prediction that a new record low summer Arctic sea ice extent is “certain”, in light of the fact, that as the adults here warned you could happen, spring extent appears headed for a rendezvous with the normal range next month?

      In a typical year, sea ice extent would be rapidly falling late in March, but it’s not. For four days in a row now, it has risen:

      What seems to be happening is just what the grown-ups said could be the case. That is, that ice extent was low this winter because of the effects of the super El Nino of 2015-16, which affected only peripheral areas of the ice pack, those which would have melted first in any case. But the unusually cold March in the NH has now refrozen edge areas that melted previously.

      Only a rank newbie would imagine that climatic phenonema are so predictable and certain. Unfortunately among the rookies are “consensus” “climate scientists”. So you’re in bad company.

      Maybe there will be a new record low this summer, but it’s far from certain. And if so, it’s most likely to be followed by more up years, as after the lows of 2007 and 2012.

  21. “Mats of algae and bacteria can evolve in the melt ponds …”

    “… simple biological organisms can evolve in melt ponds …”

    Spontaneous evolution in ice ponds. So there’s hope for life on Europa after all.

    • Mike,

      You seem to be confusing evolution with abiogenesis. Anywhere there is life, there is evolution. IMO no one is saying that algae and bacteria arose in melt ponds, although it might have happened there. For bacteria, however, more likely however through fire rather than ice, ie around deep sea hydrothermal vents. Algae are archea (with bacteria, one of the two basic forms of prokaryote) which have evolved, via endosymbiosis, to become eukaryotes, which have then acquired not just mitochondrian from bacteria, but chloroplasts as well. Chloroplasts are endosymbiotic cyanobacteria, the first photosynthetic organisms.

  22. Another ‘Big Cheese’, this time Vladimir Putin president of Russia says:
    Climate change is not manmade

    “The warming, it had already started by the 1930s,” Putin said in comments broadcast from the Arctic forum held in the northern Russian city of Arkhangelsk. (I wrote about the forum yesterday, see here ).

    The latest declaration is a far cry from Putin’s speech at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015.

    Putin also said Pruitt’s views deserve to be heard.
    “Positions and suggestions of those who don’t agree with their opponents are not so stupid. God grant him health and success, everybody should listen to one another and only then you can find an optimal solution to the problem.”

  23. If this whole piece is a direct quote, or cut-and-paste, from a uni press release, we need to know that.

    For instance, this piece says “simple biological organisms can evolve in melt ponds ” — and that is a silly thing for anyone to say. It is quite possible that the original press release is in Danish and has been translated….without a real careful review.

    Point is: we need to know WHOSE words we are reading here.


  24. C’mon, this is TERRIBLE NEWS!!!

    We only have ONE EARTH people!!!

    Where are we possibly going to put on this extra life?

    Won’t it make the planet weight more and throw us out of orbit?

    (Sorry, just writing next week’s “Even Good News is Bad” headline for the MSM…

  25. weigh more and…
    “weight” as a verb is the act of adding mass to (e.g. a diver’s belt).

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