According to polar research, Greenland ice is rapidly losing its albedo. This extreme loss of reflectivity helped lead to a period this summer when melt occurred over the entire Greenland ice sheet. Loss of Greenland albedo is a powerful amplifying feedback to human-caused global warming. It presents the danger that not only will melt rates continue to increase in Greenland, but that they will increase, as sea ice melt, at an accelerating pace.
Currently, it is apparent that loss of albedo is caused by a combination of melt and what researchers are now calling ‘dark snow.’ Dark snow is a blackening of the snow and ice covering Greenland. A new theory proposes that increasing wildfires worldwide, driven by human-caused global warming, are resulting in the deposition of a thickening layer of soot over the Greenland ice sheet. This shoot may well be adding to human soot from industrial sources and may contribute to the growing problem of dark snow.
Darker snow and ice absorbs more sunlight. This reduced albedo or reflectivity causes more rapid melt during the summer months. In the mid 2000s, researchers estimated that a combination of global warming and reduced ice sheet albedo would result in the entire ice sheet of Greenland melting during some summer months. In 2012, years ahead of schedule, this event happened.
Now, Dr. Jason Box of the Byrd Polar Research Center is attempting to raise funds for his Dark Snow Project research through crowd-sourcing. The project will remove soot samples from the Greenland ice sheet to determine whether increasing wildfires across the globe are contributing to increased melt rates in Greenland.
You can help to fund this critical research by donating to Dark Snow and/or by helping to spread the word. I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so!
Given the very rapid amplification of ice melt in the polar regions over the past ten years, it becomes critical that we learn as much as we can, as fast as we can. Doing so enables us to respond well to what appears to be a growing crisis.