Watch | ‘Snow blood’: Why climate change may be turning the Alps red

Have you ever seen red snow that looks like it’s bleeding from the crystals? Then you may have noticed “snow blood” algae, a phenomenon that has caused scientists to be concerned that it is spreading and speeds up the Alpine thaw.

Large areas of snow are strangely turning scarlet in the Alps, a phenomenon known as “snow blood.” The red patches, which are thought to be the consequence of a particular species of algae and are spreading more frequently, are caused by climate change, according to scientists and residents alike.

They worry that the algae may cause an ecological catastrophe in this isolated area since the red colour makes the snow less reflective, which accelerates melting.

In the third century B.C., Aristotle gave the earliest description of algae. But Sanguina nivaloides, its Latin name, was not officially assigned to it until 2019.

With snow volumes declining as a result of rising global temperatures that are particularly hard impacting the Alps, scientists are rushing to better grasp why before it’s too late.

According to some scientists, such as Alberto Amato, a genetic engineering researcher at the CEA Centre de Grenoble, the amount of algae appears to be increasing as a result of climate change, with greater levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide promoting blooms.

There is still much to learn, but it is known that algae speed up snowmelt because their pigment makes snow less reflective of solar radiation.

The similar look is also produced by other algae, such as a purple species and soot from forest fires. Snow and glaciers could melt more quickly all throughout the world if the algae grows.


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