Antarctica Is Getting Even Stranger: ‘Green Ice’ floating in the Ross Sea

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NASA’s Earth Observatory has released a series of astonishing pictures which depict the snowy coast of Antarctica swirling with dark green ice.

Ice off the Antarctic coast turns green

According to marine glaciologist Jan Lieser of Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center, the most likely reason for the dark green ice off the coast of Antarctica is phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is an unusual form of photosynthetic plankton and algae which are known to grow in abundance around the entire Antarctic region during the summer months (between October and February). Currently, it is the middle of autumn in the southern hemisphere, but Lieser says it is not unheard of for the algae blooms to surface at this time of year too.

In 2012, Lieser and her colleagues investigated a similar phenomenon when it was reported that the Antarctic coast was simply bubbling over with green blocks of ice and swirls. On assessing the site, the team discovered that the algae blooms were not free floating in the water but had managed to cleave themselves to fragments of ice which had become dislodged from the Antarctic coast line.

While nothing can be definitively stated at this stage regarding the current phytoplankton activity, it appears as though the algae has become trapped underneath the softer layers of early formation sea ice. It is uncertain at this time whether the algae bloom on top of the ice fragments, as was the case in 2012, or whether it has become entrenched within the ice blocks themselves.

Unusually, there are also reports of the Arctic waters experiencing bursts of phytoplankton bloom at this time. Researchers have noted the occurrence of these green bursts before in the Arctic waters but have noted that they appear much earlier than they might have expected this year. They have also reported that there have been two separate phases of algae bloom this year which is considered to be quite unusual.

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