Pretty much everyone knows that Greenland isn’t exactly green – it’s largely covered in snow-white ice – but what most people don’t know is that this year Greenland is practically black. Jason Box, a member of the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, has been studying the snow in Greenland over the summer and he has returned with some startling information. According to Box, the ice in Greenland is darker than ever previously recorded, and it could spell the start of a terrifying climate change feedback loop.
Box is part of a crowd funded research expedition called Dark Snow and made waves earlier this year when he tweeted, “If even a small fraction of Arctic sea floor carbon is release to the atmosphere, we’re f’d.” He recently spoke to Slate about his expedition and Greenland’s darkening ice. Box says that the most likely culprit turning the snow dark is a combination of factors, including infrequent summer storms, microbes and summer forest fire soot.
What makes the dark snow so frightening is that it absorbs more heat and melts more quickly than white snow. When Box looked at Arctic wildfires, he found that they have been burning at twice the rate from a decade ago. Though Box’s fire research still needs to go through the peer review process, it could all point to the fact that the Arctic is changing dramatically and possibly catastrophically.
The soot on the ice could also be caused by sources other than fires, like factories, or it could even be caused by dirt, released into the wind by the rapidly melting snow. But whatever the cause, the problem is only getting worse and the consequences can’t be good.
Images via Dark Snow