Antarctica conjures images of unbroken white wilderness, but blooms of algae are giving parts of the frozen continent an increasingly green tinge. According to scientists, the warming temperatures caused due to climate change are helping form and spread the green-colored snow. It is gradually becoming so prominent in certain places that it is even visible from the space. The presence of algae in Antarctica was noticed by explorers in long-ago previous expeditions, but its full extent was still unknown. Now, with the help of the data collected by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 satellite for over two years, along with the on-the-ground observations, a research team from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey have come up with the first map of the algae blooms present on the Antarctic Peninsula coast.
The Polar Regions are seen to be warming faster than other parts of the planet, and the research team predicts the low-lying coastal areas of Antarctica to be free from the algae soon as they start experiencing snow-free summers. However, this loss might turn out to be offset by a prevalence of large algae blooms as the temperature will rise, resulting in the melting of the snow at the higher altitudes. Nonetheless, according to scientists, it might not cause any significant changes in the climate of Antarctica.
Mosses and lichens are considered to be some of the dominant photosynthetic organisms in Antarctica, but the new mapping recorded around 1,679 separate algal blooms that can prove to be a key factor in the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The algal blooms found in Antarctica are equal to the amount of carbon that’s being emitted by the average UK petrol car journeys, which seems a lot but is insignificant in terms of the global carbon budget.