Light shining through could increasingly let phytoplankton bloom in polar region
William M. Balch/Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences; Karen Frey/Clark Univ.
Sea ice skylights formed by warming Arctic temperatures increasingly allow enough sunlight into the waters below to spur phytoplankton blooms, new research suggests. Such conditions, probably a rarity more than two decades ago, now extend to roughly 30 percent of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean during July, researchers report March 29 in Science Advances.
The microscopic critters need plenty of sunlight to thrive, so scientists were stunned by the discovery of a sprawling bloom below the normally sun-blocking Arctic ice in July 2011 (SN: 7/28/12, p. 17). Satellites can’t peek below the ice, though, so scientists at the time didn’t know whether the bloom was an oddity or representative of a shift in the Arctic environment.
Harvard University oceanographer Christopher Horvat and colleagues