Part of our nature as human beings is to see the weird, unusual, the cool, and sometimes the supernatural. If pink sand can exist on a beach somewhere in the world, then don't be surprised to know that pink snow exists too.
However, white snow turning pink in the Italian Alps, specifically in the Presena Glacier in Northern Italy, may actually be a warning sign of environmental trouble according to scientists, as reported by CBS News.
The cause of this pink snow: algae. Although it's not an uncommon phenomenon during this time as it also occurs in the middle latitudes "but also at the Poles," but it could present a problem if it starts happening more frequently.
Pink Snow in the Italian Alps a Sign of Bad Things to Come?
According to an article in Tunesiesoir, pink snow or "watermelon snow" is cryophillic, meaning the organisms thrive in cold temperatures. The algae is red because of its carotenoid pigment.
Biagio Di Mauro, a researcher of the Institute of Polar Sciences (ISP) at Italy's National Research Council, traveled to the glacier last week to investigate the mysterious algae.
The institute said that there is relatively little scientific literature on this phenomenon, which has the direct effect of accelerating the melting of snow and ice. You can see the picture he took below.
#Snow #algae sampling at Presena #glacier
: @22n23 pic.twitter.com/DtmkaAgElR — Biagio Di Mauro (@DiMauro_b) July 6, 2020
The Italian researcher said on Twitter that the algae was most likely Chlamydomonas nivalis, a snow algae. In a study that was published in the journal Nature, snow algae productivity has implications for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. You can check out his tweet below.
1- The alga was probably Chlamydomonas nivalis (a snow alga), not Ancylonema nordenskioeldi (a glacier alga)
2- the phenomen is quite common in the Alps
3- the relationship with climate change has yet to be proven@guardian @afpfr https://t.co/mG6RARexTD — Biagio Di Mauro (@DiMauro_b) July 6, 2020
What dangers do this algae present?
For starters, this could speed up the melting process in the region no thanks to climate change chipping in with the year's warmer temperatures.
Ice normally reflects most of the sun's radiation because it is white which is also why we buy white items of clothing. But if we switch to dark clothes, we will be absorbing more heat thus causing us to sweat. In the same manner, algae darkens the ice thus causing it to melt more quickly.
Dr. Michael Mann, professor of atmospheric science at Penn State University calls this biological process "positive feedback." "It reflects a process which is leading to faster melting of the glaciers than our simple models predict," Mann said.
In order to flourish, the organisms need an available supply of water. So, as the ice melts, even more algae will appear.
Across the ocean, in late May, Antarctica reported green snow, caused by microscopic algae. Though microscopic, the green blooms could be spotted by satellites as noted by Cnet.