'Watermelon Snow' May Be Pretty, But They Are Not Good For You

First Posted: Jun 24, 2016 11:03 AM EDT

"Watermelon Snow" has been making waves on social media - but contrary to its nickname, it is not some sort of delicious slushie-type snow. It is actually snow that has been tinted red or pink due to the algae growing on its surface - in short: don't eat it.

In a study published by Nature Communications, it was found that algal blooms are the reasons ice melt faster, and the algae is likely to grow even more rapidly as the climate change affects more of the Arctic. The red algae was found to lower the snow's albedo - its ability to reflect light instead of absorbing it. This is the same phenomena as to why white shirts keep you cooler in the sun than the black or colorful ones.

During the melting season, the snow that is affected by the red algae is seen to have a 13 percent lower albedo than white snow.

This melt in not unprecedented though. The Huffington Post noted that it is simply a case of loop where human-made climate change functions on a feedback with other things in nature.

"As we infer from our data, melting is one major driver for snow algal growth," the study stated.
"Extreme melt events like that in 2012, when 97% 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 warming."

The pink snow can be found nearly anywhere -- the Arctic, Antarctica, the Himalayas, and the Rockies are some places to check out. However, these places aren't easy to get to. These algae, lead study author Steffi Lutz shared that the algae need water to bloom, so the melting of snow and ice surfaces will control the abundance of these algae. With the rising temperatures, however, it seems that there will be an even higher albedo effect in nature.

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