News: Pink snow causes researchers to worry about climate change

Pink snow in the northern Italian Alps. What sounds like a curiosity is fueling concerns about accelerated glacial melt

pink snow
Source: Flickr // Copyright: François  Philip

Author: House of Eden

  • The ice of the Presena glacier in northern Italy has turned pink 
  • The reason for this is the algae Ancylonema nordenskioeldii
  • The discoloration caused by the "Pink Algae" is causing concern among scientists about climate change and glacial melting

The sight of the Presena Glacier, which is located near the province of Trentino in the popular ski area of ​​the northern Italian Alps, is currently astonishing visitors and locals alike. The ice and snow of the glacier suddenly appear pink. The reason for this extraordinary natural spectacle is an alga that Ancylonema nordenskioeldii. 

In general, pink snow has been known for centuries. Namely under synonyms such as watermelon or blood snow. The names are obviously due to the pink appearance, which is caused by the orange, pink to dark red colored cytoplasm of the algae. These thrive at an altitude of 1.800 meters and explain the current appearance of the Presena glacier.

The natural phenomenon of pink snow creates concerns about climate protection

According to Biago Di Mauro, member of the National Research Council of Italy, the alga is not dangerous in itself - at least not immediately perceptible to humans. In warmer months it occurs as a natural phenomenon, which occurs in spring and summer in the middle latitudes and at the poles. Their growth is favored when there is little rapid fall and high atmospheric temperatures. A circumstance that sums up the climate around the northern Italian Alps this year. While it is now a common natural event, the alga currently has negative effects. Namely on the climate.

Pink snow accelerates melting glaciers

Since the Pink Algae discolor the ice pink and thus make it darker, it melts faster, says Di Mauro. This is because under normal conditions ice can reflect more than 80% of solar radiation. However, if this is no longer the case due to the darker discoloration, the glacier absorbs more heat. The result: the speed of glacier melt increases.

"Anything that darkens the snow causes it to melt faster, because that speeds up the absorption of radiation" - Di Mauro (National Research Council Italy)

Pink Algae: Reminder for Our Responsibility

Although algae and the associated pink discoloration are a natural phenomenon, man-made influences cannot be completely ruled out. The growth of the alga could be connected with the presence of skiers and hikers at these high altitudes and could be promoted thereby.

While the scientists at the Italian Research Institute are now trying to quantify the effects of natural phenomena on the overheating of the earth, the current circumstances should attract social attention. The Pink Algae must strengthen people's sense of responsibility. Since natural causes can also cause irreversible damage to nature and the climate, everyone should actively work for more environmental protection. To reduce the man-made influence on climate change and to promote sustainability.

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