Greenland turning rainbow-colored seems funny, but the truth behind it is no joke.

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Posted on: August 2, 2017

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Greenland is supposed to look like this, right?

Photo from David Mark/Pixabay.

So why are parts of it starting to look like this?

Colored ice down in Antarctica. Photo from Serge Ouachée/Wikimedia Commons.

That's no snow cone.

It's ice down in Antartica, and Greenland's stating to look that way too. The normally pale ice that covers 80% of the islands' surface has been turning some weird colors recently — green, yes, but also brown, and pink, and red.

What the heck is going on here? The answer: teeny, tiny, microscopic algae.

Out on the ice might seem like a weird place for anything to grow, but for cold-adapted algae, it's home. They can come in a wide range of colors. There are even pink species that create so-called "watermelon snow."

Watermelon snow near Mount Rainier. Photo from brewbooks/Flickr.

This is more important than you might think, especially if you live on the coast.

Dark colors absorb more sunlight, which makes those spots out on the ice warmer. This is known as the albedo effect and could make the ice sheet melt faster, which is in turn connected to sea level rise. Researchers say hundreds of cities and towns in the United States could flood thanks to rising sea levels.

These colorful changes are pretty incredible, but they're also evidence the Earth is changing.

There are still things we can do to help head off the worst effects of climate change, but this is a serious problem, and we need to take it seriously. If we don't, Greenland might really start living up to it's name.



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