Here’s Why Pink Snow Is Much More Sinister Than It Looks
“Strawberry snow” isn’t as cool as it sounds
With names like “watermelon” and “strawberry” snow, one may assume the pink-hued flakes found in the arctic are simply adorable. But don’t let its cuteness fool you, this pink snow is downright evil.
The rapidly growing baby pink arctic snow is actually due to a massive red algae bloom in the frozen water.
In a newly released study, researchers found this brightly colored algae in 40 samples from 16 separate glaciers from Norway, Greenland, Iceland, and Sweden, is actually causing the ice to melt faster. In turn, this is making the algae expand quicker, thus creating a vicious cycle born out of global warming.
Steffi Lutz, lead author of the study, explains to Gizmodo, “The algae need liquid water in order to bloom. Therefore the melting of snow and ice surfaces controls the abundance of the algae. The more melting, the more algae. With temperatures rising globally, the snow algae phenomenon will likely also increase leading to an even higher bio-albedo effect.”
The study found the presence of the algae reduces the snow’s albedo, which is its ability to reflect light, by up to 20 percent. Instead, the algae’s darker color causes the light to be absorbed accelerates melting.
The researchers note in their findings, “...as we infer from our data, melting is one major driver for snow algal growth. Extreme melt events like that in 2012, when 97 percent of the entire Greenland Ice Sheet was affected by surface melting, are likely to re-occur with increasing frequency in the near future as a consequence of global/ Moreover, such extreme melting events are likely to even further intensify the effect of snow algae on surface albedo, and in turn melting rates.”
Thanks to global warming and an increase in carbon emissions, we humans are creating the perfect environment for these tiny red predators to grow and reduce the arctic’s ability to reflect light and keep our planet cool.