Algae Is Turning Snow Pink and Melting Arctic Glaciers, Study Finds|Video

It might resemble a shaved ice dessert, but the pink snow that has been found in the Arctic spells even more doom for a fragile region, a new study revealed.


Published recently in the journal Nature Communications, the study concluded that the snow and ice are being shaded by a pink algae (Chlamydomonas nivalis) that’s melting the Arctic even faster. It has been given a playful name – “watermelon snow” – but it’s anything but good news.

Stefanie Lutz, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds, authored the study. In her research, Lutz found the red-shaded snow and ice has a decreased albedo, which absorbs more sunlight. Over the course of one melting season, the studied area had a 13 percent reduction in albedo, and the pink algal blooms were to blame.

“Our results point out that the “bio-albedo” effect is important and has to be considered in future climate models,” Lutz said in a statement.

Lutz and her team took about 40 samples from 21 Pan-European Arctic glaciers, the statement added. Their study took them from Greenland to Iceland to Sweden as they worked to determine just how dangerous these algal blooms are to the Arctic’s shrinking ice cover.

The study had more bad news: As the ice thaws, more algae are able to bloom, and the cycle continues in the wrong direction.

“For the first time ever, researchers have investigated the large-scale effect of microorganisms on the melting of snow and ice the Arctic,” Daniel Remias, biologist at the Fachhochschule Wels in Austria, said in the statement.

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