Interactions

February 10, 2016

BW photograph of some snow melting into ice

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The contrast between light and dark and the interaction between the two.

BW photograph of a small patch of white snow melting into blacker sediment

Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Here we have a bit of snow melting into a patch of (much) darker sediment.  Given that the darker material absorbs heat, and therefore becomes warmer, the snow at the edge will melt much faster.  That, in turn, creates more uncovered sediment with subsequently more area to absorb heat-thus the snow will melt at a quicker pace.  In addition, as the snow ages, it, too, becomes darker and will speed up its own demise.  This particular event is taking place in my driveway.

That same dynamic that is playing out on a monumentally bigger scale in Greenland and other glaciated areas.  As the planet warms and the glaciers melt, more open water is exposed.  The darker water then absorbs more heat, which hastens the melting of the glaciers.  A few years ago, Glaciologist Dr. Jason Box theorized that any darker sediments deposited on the surface of the ice creates a similar effect, as discussed in this article.  (For more information about this work, please visit The Dark Snow Project.) While it is important to remember that a theory is a plausible explanation for something observed-a theory is not a fact.  Still, Dr. Box’s “unified theory” is compelling.  Indeed, Dr. Sarah Doherty furthers the discussion and brings it to the United States.

For those who live in areas where there is snow, you will be able to gather your own anecdotal evidence of this effect.

Take care.

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