Truth behind why 'blood snow' is blanketing Antarctica

Images of snow streaked with bright red and pink colouring has baffled social media users with some comparing it to a scene from a horror movie.

The photos posted on Facebook by Ukrainian biologist Andriy Zotov show the Vernadsky Research Base in the Antarctic surrounded by what is described as “raspberry snow”.

“I feel like there was a slaughterhouse and everything is covered in blood,” one person responded.

'Raspberry snow' or 'watermelon snow' surrounding the Academic Vernadsky Base in the Antarctic
'Raspberry snow' surrounding the Academic Vernadsky Base in the Antarctic. Source: Facebook

“It's a bit creepy, but I'm sure there is a natural explanation for the redness,” another user commented.

Researchers clarified the phenomenon is a natural process caused by algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis reproducing during the warmer months, making it appear red.

“When weather conditions become favourable (and now in Antarctica it’s just summer), the spores begin to grow,” The Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science posted.

Watermelon snow is the result of algae growing faster during warmer weather to protect itself.
During the warmer months, the snow melts faster resulting in the algae growing faster and producing a bright red pigment to protect itself. Source: Facebook

Possible links to climate change

The scientists confirmed that although the algae contains a green pigment, the cells also contain a red carotene layer to protect the algae from ultraviolet radiation.

So as the snow melts faster, the algae grows faster and produces a brighter red colour to protect itself.

Similar scenes have been reported in the Alps and polar regions across the world for hundreds of years although the colour is usually less dramatic.

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine suggested the bright red growth was linked to climate change.

Yahoo News Australia reported record high temperatures in Antartica during January and February, which would result in the algae that normally lies dormant in freezing water to bloom.

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