Know what is ‘watermelon snow’ | This natural phenomenon is making mountains pink and red in Utah
A tinge of red and pink hue has been observed in the snow by the people residing in Utah, which in turn is making the mountains appear colourful. This natural phenomenon, which is making the mountains look pretty has been nicknamed “watermelon snow”.
What is watermelon snow?
According to experts, this natural phenomenon occurs normally across all mountainous locations in the world. One may feel that the colour of snow is actually changing, however, the colourful hue is a result of the green algae bloom which thrives in cold, snowy environments, as per Scott Hotaling, an assistant professor at Utah State University’s watershed sciences department.
The species of algae which is making Utah's snow colourful is called Chlamydomonas nivalis.
Hotaling said that although the snow appears red in Utah, which is the most common colour that appears in the phenomenon, there are different types of algae which live on snow and ice and can turn the usually white frozen precipitation into various types of colours like purple, green and orange.
“(The algae is) normally in this kind of dormant cyst form, and when there’s enough meltwater in the snowpack and enough nutrients, like during spring, that cyst form is triggered out of dormancy,” Hotaling said while speaking to CNN.
“It has this little flagella that can swim through the snowpack to the surface, (where it) experiences a lot of solar radiation and it blooms. That bloom is a sign of the algae’s reproductive stage, during which there’s a secondary pigment that’s created which darkens the algae’s cells, he added.
This pigment blocks the ultraviolet rays which protect the cells of algae from solar radiation.
"The snow algae produce a pigment that basically darkens their cells, and it acts as both a protection against UV, so it protects their DNA and other aspects of their organelles from damage because they're in such a bright place," Hotaling explained, while speaking to KTVX-TV.
"But then also, it has a secondary benefit of causing their cells to absorb heat which melts the snow around them which allows them to actually access water because, you know, we're out here in a world of water right now but none of it is accessible," he added.
“I’m very light-skinned, I have a lot more struggles with the sun than people that have much more pigmented skin – same idea for algae. There are no human health concerns for water quality and for anyone who comes into contact with the watermelon snow,” Hotaling said.