Profile image
Story Views

Last Hour:
Last 24 Hours:

Antarctic ice turns green as St. Patrick’s Day approaches 

Monday, March 13, 2017 13:06
% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

NASA’s Earth Observatory has released an intriguing image of green-tinged ice in Antartica’s Granite Harbor, a cove near the Ross Sea.

The image prompted NASA to clarify that this was not a huge St. Patrick’s Day stunt to dye the water green, but rather the result of phytoplankton being attached to the ice.

sea ice

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

These microscopic marine plants, also called microalgae, grow in Antarctica in summer, which, of course, is coming to an end in the Southern Hemisphere. However, Earth Observatory points out, algae blooms can occur in the fall too.

This is the same time of year in the Antarctic that ice is forming, and algae appears to have been trapped inside that ice or attached to its surface.

Phytoplankton – important and mysterious

Marine glaciologist Jan Lieser of Australia’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center, who NASA quoted as saying phytoplankton was the cause of the green-tainted ice, was part of a team that observed a similar occurrence in 2012.

That year, a gigantic bloom that happened in late February and early March was measured to be 124 miles (200 kilometers) long and 62 miles (100 km) wide. Close inspection revealed that rather than floating freely, it was attached to ice.

NASA says that sea ice, winds, sunlight, nutrient availability and predators can all be factors in whether plankton grows in large enough quantities to color Antarctic ice, which at this time of year is slushy, and make it appear green even from space.

Scientists know that phytoplankton is important in the ecology of the Southern Ocean and is an important part for the food web, with zooplankton, fish, and other marine species depending on the food source. However, there are still several unknowns when it comes to phytoplankton.

Lieser asked: “Do these kinds of late-season ‘blooms’ provide the seeding conditions for the next spring’s bloom? If the algae get incorporated into the sea ice and remain more or less dormant during the winter, where do they end up after the winter?”

Another expedition will visit the area in April and perhaps provide some answers.


Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

The post Antarctic ice turns green as St. Patrick’s Day approaches  appeared first on Redorbit.
offers Science, Space, Technology, Health news, videos, images and reference information. For the latest science news, space news, technology news, health news visit frequently. Learn something new every day.”


We encourage you to Share our Reports, Analyses, Breaking News and Videos. Simply Click your Favorite Social Media Button and Share.

Report abuse


Your Comments
Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

Top Stories
Recent Stories



Top Global

Top Alternative



Email this story
Email this story

If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.