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Eerie ‘raspberry snow’ covers parts of Antarctica

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Eerie ‘raspberry snow’ covers parts of Antarctica thumbnail

New York Daily News

Feb 29, 2020 6:29 PM

Ukrainian scientists at a research station in the Antarctic have shared images of a strange phenomenon affecting the area around their base —blood red snow.

Ukrainian scientists at a research station in the Antarctic have shared images of a strange phenomenon affecting the area around their base —blood red snow. (MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND SCIENC)

Snow days aren’t always good things.

The Antarctic Peninsula is currently experiencing a bout of visible snow algae that the publication describes as “blood-red, flower-like spores.”

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine first reported the phenomenon — nicknamed “raspberry snow” — earlier this week on its Facebook page, posting photos of the oddity as seen near their Vernadsky Research Base on Galindez Island, which sits off the northern Peninsula’s coast.

This algae is known as Chlamydomonas nivalis and, according to Smithsonian, could initiate “a feedback loop of warming and melting,” which has scientists concerned about global warming’s impact on the continent.

    The effects of climate change around the world

    “Algae are propagated by spores that are not afraid of extreme temperatures and persist in the snow throughout the long winter,” the ministry wrote, according to an English translation.

    The particular type of algae affecting the Arctic is part of the green algae family and only turns red in warmer weather, and these red pigments, carotenoids, protect algae from ultraviolet radiation, excess heat, according to Newsweek.

    The algae needs the green pigment chlorophyll to survive which the carotenoids protect from damage.

    This leads to the red snow.

    “Snow blossoms contribute to climate change. Because of the crimson color, the snow reflects less sunlight and melts faster,” the Ministry wrote. “As a consequence, it produces more and more bright algae.”

    Antarctica isn’t the only place where this can happen, the Ministry noted, adding it occurs in “high mountain ecosystems” like the Alps, even in Colorado, where Jennifer Frazer found pink snow in 2011.

    Aristotle also spotted it in third century B.C., according to Live Science, and more recently, it was discovered — and misinterpreted as iron-nickel meteorite detritus — during Captain John Ross’ 1818 journey through the Northwest Passage.

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