BLACK and BLOOM: variations in the albedo of the Greenland Ice Sheet as a result of interactions between microbes and particulates.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Geographical Sciences

Abstract

Concerns are growing about how much melting occurs on the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS), and how much this melting will contribute to sea level rise (1). It seems that the amount of melting is accelerating and that the impact on sea level rise is over 1 mm each year (2). This information is of concern to governmental policy makers around the world because of the risk to viability of populated coastal and low-lying areas. There is currently a great scientific need to predict the amount of melting that will occur on the surface of the GrIS over the coming decades (3), since the uncertainties are high. The current models which are used to predict the amount of melting in a warmer climate rely heavily on determining the albedo, the ratio of how reflective the snow cover and the ice surface are to incoming solar energy. Surfaces which are whiter are said to have higher albedo, reflect more sunlight and melt less. Surfaces which are darker adsorb more sunlight and so melt more. Just how the albedo varies over time depends on a number of factors, including how wet the snow and ice is. One important factor that has been missed to date is bio-albedo. Each drop of water in wet snow and ice contains thousands of tiny microorganisms, mostly algae and cyanobacteria, which are pigmented - they have a built in sunblock - to protect them from sunlight. These algae and cyanobacteria have a large impact on the albedo, lowering it significantly. They also glue together dust particles that are swept out of the air by the falling snow. These dust particles also contain soot from industrial activity and forest fires, and so the mix of pigmented microbes and dark dust at the surface produces a darker ice sheet. We urgently need to know more about the factors that lead to and limit the growth of the pigmented microbes. Recent work by our group in the darkest zone of the ice sheet surface in the SW of Greenland shows that the darkest areas have the highest numbers of cells. Were these algae to grow equally well in other areas of the ice sheet surface, then the rate of melting of the whole ice sheet would increase very quickly. A major concern is that there will be more wet ice surfaces for these microorganisms to grow in, and for longer, during a period of climate warming, and so the microorganisms will grow in greater numbers and over a larger area, lowering the albedo and increasing the amount of melt that occurs each year. The nutrient - plant food - that the microorganisms need comes from the ice crystals and dust on the ice sheet surface, and there are fears that increased N levels in snow and ice may contribute to the growth of the microorganisms. This project aims to be the first to examine the growth and spread of the microorganisms in a warming climate, and to incorporate biological darkening into models that predict the future melting of the GrIS.

References

1. Sasgen I and 8 others. Timing and origin of recent regional ice-mass loss in Greenland. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 333-334, 293-303(2012).
2. Rignot, E., Velicogna, I., van den Broeke, M. R., Monaghan, A. & Lenaerts, J. Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise. Geophys. Res. Lett. 38, L05503, doi:10.1029/2011gl046583 (2011).
3. Milne, G. A., Gehrels, W. R., Hughes, C. W. & Tamisiea, M. E. Identifying the causes of sea-level change. Nature Geosci 2, 471-478 (2009).

Planned Impact

BLACK and BLOOM aims to make a major impact on the state of the science for melt prediction from the Greenland Ice Sheet. We are committed to contributing our experiences during the course of our project to the international community via IASC (International Arctic Science Committee). We will be disseminating our research results to the academic community also via publication in the top rated peer reviewed literature and international, national and local conference presentations. We will use the auspices of the Cabot Institute at the University of Bristol to bring our improved predictions of the rate of melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet to the attention of governmental and other policy makers. The Dark Snow Project, run by Project Partner Jason Box (GEUS), is well known to the public, and we will link our project web site to that of Dark Snow to aid outreach of our work to the general public. We will contribute to blogs and question and answer sessions when we are in the field via web links from Kangerlussuaq International Science Support (KISS). Hence, we aim to outreach to a broad spectrum of scientists, policy makers and the general public.

Publications

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Anesio AM (2017) The microbiome of glaciers and ice sheets. in NPJ biofilms and microbiomes

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Cook J (2017) A predictive model for the spectral "bioalbedo" of snow Bioalbedo of Snow in Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

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Cook J (2018) Topographic shading influences cryoconite morphodynamics and carbon exchange in Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

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Dukhovskoy DS (2019) Role of Greenland Freshwater Anomaly in the Recent Freshening of the Subpolar North Atlantic. in Journal of geophysical research. Oceans

 
Description We have confirmed that biological effects are darkening the melting surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Papers have been published, that establish this claim.
Exploitation Route We have demonstrated that the current melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet is modeled without taking into account biological effects. These must be understood and included in future melt models.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://blackandbloom.org/
 
Title Dark ice dynamics of the south-west Greenland Ice Sheet, 2000-2016 
Description Metrics of dark ice extent and duration, and snowline retreat estimates, for the south-west ablation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet, derived from MODIS satellite imagery. These metrics are provided on a ~613 m grid at annual resolution and cover the melt season, defined as June-July-August each year. All scripts used to generate the metrics are also provided, as well as the scripts which generate the plots found in Tedstone et al. (2017, The Cryosphere). 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Dissolved nutrient, carbon and algal abundance in the Dark Zone (Greenland Ice Sheet), July-August 2016 
Description Dissolved inorganic and organic nutrient concentrations, dissolved organic carbon concentrations and glacier algal cell abundance are quantified for supraglacial environments in the Dark Zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet during July and August 2016. Samples include surface ice with varying degrees of visible impurities, cryoconite hole water and supraglacial stream water. Surface ice samples are comprised of the top 2 cm of a 1x1 m ice surface area. Dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN), dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), dissolved inorganic phosphorus (DIP), dissolved organic phosphorus (DOP) and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) were quantified for all ice surface, supraglacial stream and cryoconite hole water samples collected. Glacier algae abundance was quantified for ice surface samples. Field blank corrections were conducted for all DIN, DON, DIP, DOP and DOC data. Any values resulting below the instrument limit of detection were considered to be 0. Funding was provided by the NERC 'Black and Bloom' grant NE/M021025/1 and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 675546. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Modele Atmospherique Regionale (MAR) v3.6.2 Regional Climate Model daily outputs over the Greenland Ice Sheet, forced by ERA-Interim, 2000-2016 
Description Daily outputs on a 7.5 km horizontal resolution grid covering the Greenland Ice Sheet from MARv3.6.2, which is a regional climate model developed for the Polar regions that solves the regional climate and ice sheet surface mass balance. MAR was forced by ERA-Interim re-analysis data. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Multi-spectral unmanned aerial system imagery, S6, south-west Greenland, July 2017: Level 1 (unmosaiced radiance measurements) 
Description This dataset consists of the unprocessed radiance measurements downloaded directly from the unmanned aerial system imaging platform used to image the ice sheet surface at S6 on the south-west Greenland K-transect during July 2017, along with captures of reflectance panels and sensor calibration parameters which enable these imagery to be transformed to reflectance measurements. Funding was provided by the NERC standard grant NE/M021025/1. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Title Multi-spectral unmanned aerial system imagery, UPE_U, north-west Greenland, July 2018: Level 1 (unmosaiced radiance measurements) 
Description This dataset consists of the unprocessed radiance measurements downloaded directly from the unmanned aerial system imaging platform used to image the ice sheet surface near UPE_U in the north-west of the Greenland Ice Sheet, along with captures of reflectance panels and sensor calibration parameters which enable these imagery to be transformed to reflectance measurements. Funding was provided by the NERC standard grant NE/M021025/1. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
 
Description ARCTIS 2020 Khanty-Mensisyk, Russia - part of COP26 activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I gave a presentation of the Black and Bloom Project to 38 UK-Russian post graduates, and a further 10 Russian researchers. I took part in an exchange with the senior management team of Yukra State University (Siberia) and surrounding University partners, together with the British Consular General for Siberia and a staff member of the British Embassy in Moscow, on the potential for further UK-Russian scientific exchanges in climate change science in cold regions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Engagement Activities 2016-17 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We have established the Black and Bloom website, https//blackandbloom.org, and associated Twitter account. This has led to widespread uptake of our research in Science and Huffington Post articles, for example, and has led to various schools contacting us for talks, which we have undertaken. The BBC have also been in contact, radio interviews have been given, and more such actiites are planned for 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
URL http://blackandbloom.org
 
Description Engagement Activities 2017-18 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Our project was covered as one of the prime time science stories on the BBC News, both at 6 and at 10. We conducted interviews for Radio 4 too. Our project was covered on the BBC Website and received hundred of thousands of hits.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-40686984
 
Description SEREN HUB - gifted children in South Wales 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Approximately 30 gifted Geographers have attended a two hour talk/question and answer session on studying geography at University, with the Black and Bloom project a core to the types of research that Geography Departments undertake and the opportunities that undergraduates have for related projects/dissertations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019,2020
 
Description Widening Participation, via Access to Bristol and Insight into Bristol 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact ~40 students each year attended either Access to... or Insight into Bristol. The two hour workshop was designed to give students from low educationally achieving areas the opportunity to experience University teaching and learning environments. Black and Bloom material is core to the acitivities, showing the types of research and dissertations that geography students can undertake.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017,2018,2019,2020