Minimize Antarctic sea ice is lean and green

It may look like someone dyed the water green for St. Patrick's Day, but the green hue visible off the coast of Antarctica is entirely natural.

On 05 March, 2017, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured these natural-colour images of water, sea ice, and phytoplankton. The region pictured is Antarctica's Granite Harbor — a cove in the vicinity of the Ross Sea. The first image shows a wide view of the area, and the subsequent images show detailed views of the green slush ice.

Jan Lieser, a marine glaciologist from Australia's Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center thinks the green colour is caused by phytoplankton at the water's surface that have discoloured the sea ice. These microscopic marine plants, also called micro-algae, typically flourish in the waters around Antarctica in the austral spring and summer, when the edge of the sea ice recedes and there is ample sunlight. But scientists have noticed that given the right conditions, they can grow in autumn too.

View the full resolution image.

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Antarctic sea ice


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