Mail Online reports on a new study suggesting melting ice
sheets could have an upside for Arctic ecosystems, by boosting
As a potential way to capture carbon dioxide, the Mail
Online's headline suggests the findings could represent
"another positive effect of global warming". The authors
take a more cautious view, however, saying such conclusions are
"outside the scope" of the paper.
Unfortunately, it's seems likely the Mail Online's
headline was inspired by the University of Bristol
press release, entitled 'Iron from melting ice sheets may help
buffer global warming', though the rest of the release doesn't do
much to back up that statement.
The full paper is freely available, so you can have a
read for yourself
A rush of iron
The Mail Online story stems from
research published in Nature Communications. The study
looks at the consequences of melting Greenland and Antarctic
glaciers for polar ecosystems.
Every year in summer, glacial "outbursts" send
thousands of litres of meltwater gushing into the ocean every
second. This releases iron previously locked up in the ice, the
The Arctic, Southern Ocean and parts of the North
Atlantic are low in iron - an essential nutrient for plant growth.
The new paper suggests a seasonal iron boost from melting glaciers
stimulates plants to grow, drawing more carbon dioxide out of the
The scientists estimate the Greenland ice sheet
releases 400,000 to 2.5 million tonnes of iron each year. In
Antarctica, it's likely to be less - about 60,000 to 100,000
tonnes, they estimate.
Together, the combined mass of iron is equivalent to
about 125 Eiffel Towers or 3,000 Boeing 747s added to the ocean
each year, the
press release notes.
The scientists' estimates are based on measurements
from the Leverett glacier in Southwest Greenland. Since the glacier
is representative of more than 75 per cent of the continent, the
team scaled their findings up to get an estimate for the whole ice