The cause and concerns over red snow in Antarctica

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News: Recently, snow around Ukraine’s Vernadsky Research Base, located off the coast of Antarctica’s northernmost peninsula, has started to take on a red tinge

Facts:

Cause: 

  • The red tint in the snow is caused by the microscopic Chlamydomonas nivalis algae which produce the tinted sunscreen to keep themselves warm.

Concern:

  • As the snow becomes darker from the tinge from the algae, it absorbs more heat, as a result of which it melts faster.
  • Further, these algae change the snow’s albedo (the amount of light or radiation the snow surface is able to reflect back).