Tag / cryoconite

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  • Life, Death and Predation on the Greenland Ice Sheet

    Mention the Greenland Ice Sheet, and chances are that you conjure up the image of a barren, white wilderness, dominated by ice and devoid of life. In fact, the ice sheet and its coastal outlet glaciers support thousands of small pools that teem with bacteria and animals. “A world of microbes exists in these tiny,…

  • Could Cryoconites Hold the Secrets to Extraterrestrial Life?

    In recent years, scientists have found other locations on planets, moons and exoplanets where life might exist. Different animals and organisms like tardigrades (eight-legged microscopic animals commonly known as water bears) have also been sent into space to explore the conditions for survival away from Earth. However, a recent paper published in the journal Contemporary…

  • Small Particles Have Big Impact on Glacial Health

    A recent study by Heidi Smith et al. in the desolate McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica has shown that microbial life in biofilms is present across a large part of the region’s ice, suggesting that the stability of polar ice can be influenced by even the smallest of organisms. Biofilms—thin, slimy bacterial layers that can…

  • Glaciers Serve as Radioactive Storage, Study Finds

    The icy surfaces of glaciers are punctured with cryoconites – small, cylindrical holes filled with meltwater, with thin films of mineral and organic dust, microorganisms, and other particles at the bottom of the hole. New research conducted by Polish scientists reveals that cryoconites also contain a thin film of extremely radioactive material. The study confirms…

  • Organisms on Glacier Surfaces May Function as Carbon Sinks

    A new study shows that life processes of microbes living on the surface of glacier ice–organisms known as supraglacial microbes–may have an impact on the melting of glacial ice and on global greenhouse gas levels. It documents a previously unrecorded process by which these microbes produce compounds which retain carbon on the glacier surface, rather than…

  • Roundup: Fewer Hikers, Less Pollen, More Algae on Glaciers

    Each week, we highlight three stories from the forefront of glacier news. New Zealand Glaciers Banned Hiking From Mashable.com: “New Zealand is renowned for its wondrous scenery, and among the country’s top tourist attractions are two glaciers that are both stunning and unusual because they snake down from the mountains to a temperate rain forest,…

  • The Microscopic Life of Glaciers

    Though it can be hard to imagine that cold, barren-looking glaciers are conducive to life, glaciers are actually teeming with organisms. Glacier surfaces are filled with cylindrical holes called cyroconite holes, in which melt water accumulates and micro-algae and cyanobacteria  thrive. Now, a new study published in Biogeosciences has taken a closer look at these complex ecosystems…

  • Photo Friday: Cryoconites and Glacier Tables

    Have you ever seen dark cavities on glaciers, which are also referred to as “cryoconites”? These holes, which can be meters deep,are created from debris on top of glaciers. Dark-colored debris, including soot, dust, and pollen, speed up the melting process of glacial ice as a consequence of their low reflectivity to incoming sunlight. In…

  • Glacier Melting Sets Free Organic Carbon

    Research has shown that glaciers have a greater role than was previously known in the movement of organic carbon into and through aquatic ecosystems, including the oceans. Organic Carbon (OC) refers to carbon contained in organic compounds that is originally derived from decaying vegetation, bacterial growth, and metabolic activities of living organisms. It serves as…

  • Life Blooms in Tiny Cities at the Surface of Glaciers

    You might think glaciers would be hostile to life. But small water-filled holes at the surfaces of glaciers called cryoconite holes contain diverse collections of organisms. Like individual cities in a continent of ice, each hole contains its own distinct population of creatures. Some scientists believe glaciers should be considered a separate biome given the unique…