Watermelon snow

Snow off coast of Antarctica’s northern-most peninsular region took on a reddish tinge over the past few weeks due to algal activity.

  • What is watermelon snow?

Watermelon snow or blood snow is a phenomenon by which the snow takes on a reddish or pinkish tinge. This is because of algae producing reddish pigments that act as sunscreen. The phenomenon recently occurred in Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base.

  • What is the causative of watermelon snow?

Watermelon snow is caused by an algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis. It is it is a green algae that lives in freezing water (cryophilic in nature) and produces carotenoids which gives the snow the reddish colour. The pigment protects the algae from UV radiation.

  • What is the link between watermelon snow and albedo?

Albedo is the amount of light/ radiation that a surface is able to reflect back. Darker the surface, lower the albedo. The watermelon snow decreases the albedo of the region and results in more absorption of heat. This will accelerate the melting of the snow and the glaciers.

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