Pink snow, it’s pretty but it’s disturbing according to scientists

Over the last few days, the Presena glacier in the Italian Alps has taken on a mysterious pink colour. This phenomenon is probably due to algae. It’s beautiful to see but scientists are worried.


Dirty snow?

If you were to hike in the Italian Alps right now, you would find your boots covered with a weird, pink snow powder.

Although it is a nice touch of colour that transforms the mountain tops into a foreign landscape, Le Monde

reports that pink snow is actually quite a bad sign. The pink colour comes from algae in bloom. And although the extent of its impact on the environment is poorly understood, it could accelerate the rate at which snow melts.

What we know

It’s not so much that the algae melt the snow itself, reports Le Monde, but rather that the transformation of snow into pink snow makes it absorb more heat from the sun, which makes it melt faster.

This kind of phenomenon is not rare, it is relatively common in glaciers in spring and summer. It is not yet clear whether the increase in temperature due to climate change will lead to an increase in blooms in the future, but it is quite possible that more heat means more algae and less snow.

A lack of information

Scientists know that snow is disappearing from the Alps. And many glaciers could disappear during this century, because the low snowfall cannot replace the ice below.

Less precipitation in winter and higher temperatures in spring and summer should favour the formation of snow and glacial algae, » said Biagio Di Mauro, a member of the Italian National Research Centre.
« This is the first time that the Italian National Research Centre has been able to identify the causes of glacial algae and snow in the world, » said Biagio Di Mauro.