Quantifying spatiotemporal variability of glacier algal blooms and the impact on surface albedo in southwestern Greenland

Shujie Wang, Marco Tedesco, Patrick Alexander, Min Xu, Xavier Fettweis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Albedo reduction due to light-absorbing impurities can substantially enhance ice sheet surface melt by increasing surface absorption of solar energy. Glacier algae have been suggested to play a critical role in darkening the ablation zone in southwestern Greenland. It was very recently found that the Sentinel-3 Ocean and Land Colour Instrument (OLCI) band ratio R709 nm=R673 nm can characterize the spatial patterns of glacier algal blooms. However, Sentinel-3 was launched in 2016, and current data are only available over three melting seasons (2016 2019). Here, we demonstrate the capability of the MEdium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) for mapping glacier algae from space and extend the quantification of glacier algal blooms over southwestern Greenland back to the period 2004 2011. Several band ratio indices (MERIS chlorophyll a indices and the impurity index) were computed and compared with each other. The results indicate that the MERIS two-band ratio index (2BDA) R709 nm=R665 nm is very effective in capturing the spatial distribution and temporal dynamics of glacier algal growth on bare ice in July and August. We analyzed the interannual (2004 2011) and summer (July August) trends of algal distribution and found significant seasonal and interannual increases in glacier algae close to the Jakobshavn Isbrae Glacier and along the middle dark zone between the altitudes of 1200 and 1400 m. Using broadband albedo data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), we quantified the impact of glacier algal growth on bare ice albedo, finding a significant correlation between algal development and albedo reduction over algae-abundant areas. Our analysis indicates the strong potential for the satellite algal index to be used to reduce bare ice albedo biases in regional climate model simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2687-2713
Number of pages27
JournalCryosphere
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 27 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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