Visiting Antarctica? Do Not Eat the Red Snow!

1
2004
So-called 'watermelon snow' sounds better than it looks and tastes; do not eat pink snow. (Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine)

This ‘Blood-Red’ Snow Is Taking Over Parts of Antarctica

by Lily Katzman/Smithsonianmag.com

Earlier this month, Antarctica experienced record high temperatures, causing the southernmost continent’s ice caps to melt at an unprecedented rate. As a result, Eagle Island, a small island off Antarctica’s northwest tip, experienced peak melt; brown rock appeared from beneath the ice and several ponds of meltwater accumulated at the center.

And with these unprecedented temperatures, the algae that normally thrive in freezing water and lie dormant across the continent’s snow and ice are now in full bloom and cover the Antarctic Peninsula with blood-red, flower-like spores.

On February 24, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine posted photos of the phenomenon to their Facebook page, showing ice around their Vernadsky Research Base—located on the Galindez Island off the coast of Antarctica’s northern Peninsula—covered in what researchers call “raspberry snow” or “watermelon snow”.

This red-pigmented algae, also known as Chlamydomonas nivalishas the potential to jumpstart a feedback loop of warming and melting, worrying scientists about the continued impact of climate change on this critical region.

“Snow blooms contribute to climate change,” the Ministry wrote on Facebook. “Because of the red-crimson color, the snow…

SOURCESmithsonianMag.com

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