Race to solve 'blood snow' mystery: 'Melting before our eyes'

The mystery surrounding the worsening phenomenon known as “blood snow” may have been solved.

Documented by Aristotle in the third century BC, and again in the Arctic in 1818, the strange crimson colouring is now believed to be more widespread.

It’s even been documented in Antarctica, and locals around the French Alps say the strange red-coloured ice has become more evident during early summer.

Scientists are racing to confirm whether climate change is linked to blood snow. Source: Reuters
Scientists are racing to confirm whether climate change is linked to blood snow. Source: Reuters

It’s well known the issue is caused by algae, and that it causes snow to melt quickly because it’s pigment reduces the snow’s ability to reflect the sun’s heat.

Investigators have suspected the issue could be linked to climate change, with higher carbon dioxide levels intensifying blooms.

CEA Centre de Grenoble genetic engineering researcher Alberto Amato believes the connection is “likely”.

“The warmer it is, the more algae there are and the more the snow melts quickly,” he said.

“So, it's a bit of a vicious cycle and we are trying to understand all the mechanisms and this cycle so we can try to do something about it.”

Two key reasons to study 'blood snow' phenomena

Grenoble's Scientific Research National Center scientists are in a race against time to better understand its impact before the problem worsens.

Samples of the snow have been collected from Le Brevent mountain which has an elevation of over 2500 metres.

Project leader Eric Marechal believes there are two key reasons to study the algae.

“The first is that it is an area that is little explored, and the second reason is that this little explored area is melting before our eyes,” he said.

“So it's kind of urgent, we have to quickly deploy means to collect samples, this is what we are doing today, and then study them with all the modern means that exist in biology.”

With Reuters

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