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Pink snow is also called watermelon snow, red snow or blood snow. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle left the first-known written accounts of pink snow. This mysterious snow had puzzled climbers, explorers and naturalists for thousands of years.
On their way back from an Arctic expedition in May 1818, Captain Sir John Ross noticed crimson snow that streaked the white cliffs like streams of blood as they were rounding Cape York on the northwest coast of Greenland. A landing party brought back samples to England. The British newspaper The Times wrote about it. At that time it was concluded that the coloration was caused by meteoric iron deposits. However, when Ross published a full account of his expedition, he included a botanical appendix written by famed Scottish botanist Robert Brown. In that appendix, Brown speculated the red snow was caused by a type of algae.
It would not be until late 1800s before scientists would correctly determine that pink snow was actually caused by high concentrations of microscopic algae, Chlamydomonas nivalis, known as snow algae. It was Brown’s assessment that provided the foundation for the scientific discovery. It is a species of green algae containing a secondary red carotenoid pigment in addition to chlorophyll. It is cold-loving and thrives in freezing water. In winter months, the algae become dormant in the snow as spores. But in the late spring and summer, when their icy habitat begins to melt, they blossom to produce striking pink landscapes.
In a study published in Nature Communications on June this year, researchers says a sweeping analysis of snow algae across 21 glaciers in the pan-European Arctic, from Greenland over Iceland and Svalbard to the north Sweden, showed that they are actually helping the snow melt faster. (Floro Mercene)