From: Leah Burrows via John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Published March 29, 2017 03:54 PM

Solving the mystery of the Arctic's green ice

In 2011, researchers observed something that should be impossible — a massive bloom of phytoplankton growing under Arctic sea ice in conditions that should have been far too dark for anything requiring photosynthesis to survive. So, how was this bloom possible?

Using mathematical modeling, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) found that thinning Arctic sea ice may be responsible for frequent and extensive phytoplankton blooms, potentially causing significant disruption in the Arctic food chain.  

The research is described in Science Advances and is a collaboration between researchers from SEAS, University of Oxford and University of Reading.

Phytoplankton underpins the entire Arctic food web. Every summer, when the sea ice retreats, sunlight hitting the open water triggers a massive bloom of plankton. These plumes attract fish, which attract larger predators and provides food for indigenous communities living in the Arctic.

Phytoplankton shouldn’t be able to grow under the ice because ice reflects most sunlight light back into space, blocking it from reaching the water below.

Continue reading at John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Image: Melt ponds darken the surface of thinning Arctic sea ice, creating conditions friendly to algae blooms under the ice. (Image courtesy of NASA)

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