Cryoconite is powdery windblown dust made of a combination of small rock particles, soot and bacteria, fulling melt-holes on glacial ice surface (cryoconite holes). As the cryoconite absorbs solar radiation and promotest ice melting beneath it, the cylindrical holes are formed. Components of cryconites are:
- terrestrial mineral particles – quartz, feldspar, mica, calcite, clay minerals
- anthropogenic pollutants (soot)
- microbes and organic matter (algae, cyanobacteria, humic substances)
The holes can also harbour dormant seeds flown in from far away and invertebrates (like tardigrades).
Cryoconites create a positive feedback mechanism and are a significant contributor to glacial surface melt.