Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project

ArCS Blog

Report of the FY2018 program for overseas visits by young researchers: A collaborative study on surface darkening of the Greenland ice sheet with a UK research group

I stayed at Aberystwyth University in UK for three weeks from late November to December 2018. The purpose of my stay was to conduct a collaborative study on surface darkening of the Greenland ice sheet with a glaciological research group of the university.

In recent years, the Greenland ice sheet has melted rapidly. This rapid melting is caused by not only climatic warming but also by darkening of the ice surface. The darkening of the ice surface is caused by contamination of impurities, ice and snow grain metamorphism, and presence of meltwater. To predict the future change of the Greenland ice sheet, it is essential to understand how these factors affect the surface albedo and to quantify the spatial and temporal variations of the ice surface reflectance.

During my stay, I analyzed the field data of spectral reflectance on the ice surface, which were collected by a UK research project called “Black and Bloom”. The project aims to understand how the glacial microbes, such as algae and cyanobacteria, darken the ice sheet and has collected a number of field data on the ablation ice of the southwestern part of the Greenland ice sheet in the last three years. As a collaborative study between Aberystwyth and Chiba Universities, I worked on the spectral reflectance data of the project. I found the spatial and temporal patterns of the reflectance, but the factors affecting the variations remain unclear. I am still working on the data and will compare them with micro-topography and with meteorological data on the ice sheet.

The glaciological research group of Aberystwyth University has many Ph.D. students. I really enjoyed talking with them every day about science and their project. One day, I had a chance to present my research project in a group seminar. I gave a talk on the snow algae in Japan that I studied in my master course. It was a great opportunity and a pleasure for me to have received many suggestions from staff and students of the group.

Aberystwyth is a beautiful and historic town located on the west coast of Wales, surrounded by green hills. Aberystwyth University has substantial facilities such as dormitories and libraries, so I have had a very comfortable research stay. Although it was a short visit of three weeks, I loved the environment and I would like to be back and stay there longer next time.

Finally, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to ArCS and all the people who supported me.

Akane Watanabe (Chiba University)

The view of Aberystwyth town from university building

Geography and Earth Sciences building of Aberystwyth University