Glaciers melt: thousands of free microorganisms!

According to microbiologist Alexandre Anesio of the Aarhus University, in Denmark, the melting ice in Iceland and Greenland is exposing thousands of microorganisms that were previously unknown to exist

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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Glaciers melt: thousands of free microorganisms!

According to microbiologist Alexandre Anesio of the Aarhus University, in Denmark, the melting ice in Iceland and Greenland is exposing thousands of microorganisms that were previously unknown to exist. The rise in temperatures awakens, or rather, makes these microorganisms more active.

Which in turn exercise greater activity under the snow making it change color and causing it to melt unexpectedly and prematurely. Even NASA is closely following the results of the team's research, which could be crucial in the search for life in space.

Glaciers contain many more microorganisms than previously assumed. Inside them are trapped several thousand species, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and algae, which lie dormant in the ice and awaken in the melting waters.

Anesio explained: "There is even evidence to suggest that they color the ice and make it melt faster. As the ice darkens, it becomes more difficult to reflect sunlight. So the heat from the rays is absorbed by the ice, which begins to melt.And the more the ice melts, the warmer the temperature on Earth.

Algae therefore play an important role in global warming. Our data suggest that glacial microorganisms respond rapidly to the dynamic and changing conditions typical of their natural environment. Hence we infer that the biology and biogeochemistry of glacier surfaces are shaped by processes that occur on short, daily time scales, and therefore are susceptible to alterations in the melting regime of glaciers due to climate change.

ice, there is a probability that we will also find it on Mars or in the icy lights of Jupiter or Saturn. Like us, NASA is also very interested in how microorganisms behave on ice. How much nutrition do they need? What kind of power supply? And how does the ecosystem they belong to work? All questions we hope to be able to answer in the future."

Ice melting

It is a process that has medium and long-term influence on the level of seas and oceans, on the availability of fresh water for irrigation and for domestic use, on animals and plants that depend on the melting of the glacier and last but not least on hiking activities / climbing in the mountains.

Studied by glaciologists from all over the world, the coincidence of the phenomenon with the increase of atmospheric greenhouse gases is often cited by the scientific community in probative support of anthropogenic global warming as one of the macroscopic effects, while for others it should be sought in the end of the so-called Little Ice Age and the onset of a Warm Period similar to the Medieval Warm Period of cyclical nature and evidently natural causes.

Glacier retreat manifests itself in the loss of its low-elevation region. Since higher elevations are colder, the disappearance of the lowest portion of the glacier reduces overall ablation, thereby increasing the mass balance and potentially restoring equilibrium.

If the mass balance of a significant portion of the glacier accumulation zone is negative, it is out of balance with the climate and will tend to melt unless colder weather and/or increased solid precipitation takes over.

Despite their proximity and importance to human populations, tropical mid-latitude and tropical mountain and valley glaciers account for only a small percentage of the Earth's existing ice. About 99% of all fresh water is found in the great polar and subpolar ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland.

These immense continuous continental-scale expanses of ice, 3 km (1.9 mi) or more thick, cover much of the polar and subpolar landmass. Much like rivers flowing from a huge lake, the many outlet glaciers carry ice from the margins of the ice fields to the ocean.