The color that you see in the pictures offered here is often called the “raspberry snow” by local scientists. Centuries ago, it was dubbed “watermelon snow” by Aristotle. Some people think it looks like blood splattered all over the white snow. Whatever term you wish to call it doesn’t matter, as these algae is said to be contributing to global warming even as we speak.
If you want to know the absolute truth, that light red color that can be seen in the attached images is not caused by raspberries, watermelons, or blood. The color comes from large communities of algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis. If you are wondering why the algae aren’t green like most other algae, there is actually quite a good explanation for it. The red color comes from defense against natural UV radiation. The algae is trying to absorb light while protecting itself against genetic mutations.
This type of algae will lie dormant pretty much all winter long. When the warmer weather starts to creep in, usually in the summer, the algae begins to spread out throughout the snow. What makes it interesting is the way there are different patterns in the algae as it spreads, such as blobs and stripes. While it may not seem like it, this algae will serve as a sustainable food source for many different life forms as it spread. Nematodes and ice worms are just two of the life forms that will take advantage of this fascinating algae.
Many scientists believe that the reason the ice sheets have been melting as fast as they have is due to the “bio-albedo” effect that certain types of algae have on the ice. However, the fact that scientists and locals have seen these algae isn’t the actual main story- it’s when and where the algae are showing up that is so interesting. The ice that was found in February around the Vernadsky Research Base has all been blobbed and streaked with this amazing bright red algae. The base, which can be found on an island near Antarctica, has a Facebook page that offers many other brilliant pictures.
The reason the algae is appearing is probably due to the extremely warmer temperatures that the Antarctic has been experiencing this winter. The news has reported many times about how warm it has been, which has essentially “tricked” the algae into believing that it is summer. The red color is not able to reflect the backlight in the same way that white snow does. Scientists believe that the extra heating is exacerbating the warming conditions, which then creates a feedback loop.
The Ukrainian scientists went to their Facebook page to explain what is happening. According to the experts, the red-crimson color of the algae causes the snow to reflect less sunlight than usual. Because of this, the ice melts faster. The warmer the temperature gets, the more algae is produced. From there, the algae holds in more heat than the snow does, causing more melting to occur.