Currently, the Greenland ice sheet is adding an extra 1mm per year to the rise in the global average level of the oceans, propelled by warmer conditions encouraging algae to grow. In turn, this is causing the surface to darken.
This comes a few weeks after reports that a species of bacteria could also be accelerating the melting of Greenland. A photosynthesising microbe from a genus called Phormidesmis, has also been identified as partly responsible for the darkening of Greenland. It glues soot and dust together, forming a grainy substance as cryoconite. As the surface darkens, the Greenland ice becomes less reflective, more likely to melt.
According to Dr Arwyn Edwards, a scientist from Aberystwyth University, cryoconite holes “pockmark 200,000 square kilometres of the Greenland ice sheet”.
“These is considerable uncertainty over the rates and timings of that melt,” he said. “However, it seems more likely that we will commit to a longer-term melting of the ice sheet within our century. The question is: how much are these bacterial processes contributing?”