A recent project has, for the first time, used satellite data to map algae abundance over time in southwest Greenland. A team of researchers used observations from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) SENTINEL-3 satellites during the 2016 and 2017 summers to detect the pigment chlorophyll-a, providing spatial identification of algal abundance that was consistent with field measurements. Algae was shown to proliferate widely from late July to mid-August.

Algae blooms on the ice sheet can alter the surface albedo of the ice and enhance surface melting. The results of the study could be combined with regional climate models to help scientists better understand future mass balance over the Greenland ice sheet.

The study, “Mapping Ice Algal Blooms in Southwest Greenland From Space,” was published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. The work was supported by NASA Astrobiology through the Exobiology Program.

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Sentenel-3 Mission (ESA)