A few days ago, an unusual landscape was spotted in the Alps, with several images showcasing snow, which was pink, with a few streaks of orange. While at first sight, the image may seem to be picturesque, it is also a major alarm signal.
The color of watermelon snow, as this snow is called, is influenced by the existence of snow algae. Most fresh-water algae enjoy warm temperatures, but snow algae are cryophilic, which means that they enjoy colder temperatures. The spectacular tint of the snow is caused by the presence of carotenoid pigment.
A bad omen
One of the main concerns tied to the presence of the snow algae in the Alps is represented by the fact that red will increase the amount of sunlight absorbed by snow, accelerating the way at which they melt, increasing the impact of global warming.
It is also worth noting that the presence of the snow algae is not limited to the Alps. According to an Italian researcher, the algae blossoms have been observed across other areas, including the North and South Poles. As the algae spread a negative feedback loop is reinforced as more snow and ice will melt faster
Some recent research infers that the rate at which ice and snow melt could be higher than previously thought. Photosynthetic organisms live by absorbing sunlight. A limited amount of energy is employed to progress carbohydrates, but most of the energy will be spent to heat the organisms and the immediate environments.
A few researchers wanted to learn more about the way in which black carbon influences snow melt rates, but the project was abandoned. The requirements needed to run an accurate study are quite difficult as the team would have had to establish a series of control plots and specific light and temperature conditions.