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Tags Current Affairs

Blood red snow in Antarctica

Date: 29 February 2020 Tags: Climate Change

Issue

Over the past few weeks, snow around Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base, located off the coast of Antarctica’s northernmost peninsula, has started to take on a red tinge.

 

Background

The red snow raises concerns about the rate at which the glaciers will melt away and eventually affect sea-level rise.

 

Details

  • The phenomenon is because of an algae that thrives in freezing weather. Because of the red tinge, the snow is often dubbed “watermelon snow”.

  • Research says that such algae as found around the Ukrainian research base grow well in freezing temperatures and liquid water.

  • During the summer, when these typically green algae get a lot of sun, they start producing a natural sunscreen that paints the snow in shades of pink and red. In the winter months, they lie dormant.

  • The algae produce the tinted sunscreen to keep themselves warm. The research also mentions that because the snow becomes darker from the tinge, it absorbs more heat, as a result of which it melts faster.

  • These algae, that are not uncommon in other polar settings around the world, change the snow’s albedo, which refers to the amount of light or radiation the snow surface is able to reflect back. 

  • The melting snow is good for the algae who thrive on it, but bad for the glaciers that are already melting.

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