The Utah mountains have turned shades of pink, red and orange thanks to watermelon snow


Watermelon snow! The Utah mountains have turned shades of pink, red and orange thanks to natural phenomenon

  •  The pink snow is surrounding Tony Grove Lake in Cache County, Utah
  •  A green algal bloom occurring on the snow’s surface creates the unusual color

The Utah mountains have turned shades of pink, red and orange thanks to a natural phenomenon called watermelon snow.

Summer officially starts today but at Tony Grove Lake in Cache County the rocks are still holding on to an unusual form of accumulation.

Scott Hotaling, an assistant professor at Utah State University’s Department of watershed sciences, told ABC4 that what appears to be a different form of snow is actually a green algal bloom occurring on the surface.

Hotaling has been studying watermelon snow and the algae that creates the effect for a few years.

He told ABC4: ‘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.

Pink snow can be seen at Tony Grove Lake in Cache County. What appears to be a different form of snow is actually a green algal bloom occurring on the surface

Pink snow can be seen at Tony Grove Lake in Cache County. What appears to be a different form of snow is actually a green algal bloom occurring on the surface

Some Utah residents have been quick to embrace the colorful build-up, which has turned the bottom of hikers' shoes orange

Some Utah residents have been quick to embrace the colorful build-up, which has turned the bottom of hikers’ shoes orange

‘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.’

As the algae darkens in color, it keeps in more heat from the sun, causing the snow to melt quicker, which Hotaling warned could be an issue in years of drought.

WHAT IS WATERMELON SNOW? 

So-called ‘watermelon snow’ is caused by microscopic algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis. 

This is a unicellular red-colored photosynthetic algae. 

It can be found in snowfields around the world.

As weather warms, the algae releases spores that grow and produce the unique coloration. 

The red pigment mixes with the green pigment all algae possess and creates the pink appearance.

Pictured: microscopic algae Chlamydomonas nivalis

Pictured: microscopic algae Chlamydomonas nivalis

He is trying to ascertain how much of Utah’s snowpack melts as a result of algae and what can be done to stop it from becoming a problem.

The research is in its early stages, but it could provide results within two years.

While many are looking forward to basking in the summer sun, some Utah residents have been quick to embrace the colorful build-up.

‘I thought that was pretty cool,’ Wallace Salle told ABC4.

‘At first, I was like, “Is someone painting it or something?”‘

The young boy and his family had travelled to the lake from Minnesota.

Local resident Dru Davis, who was also visiting with his family, said: ‘I love the color. Pink is my favorite color. I think it looks almost like it’s spray painted.’

Hikers who have come into contact with the pink snow have noted that the bottom of their shoes have turned bright orange, with their footprints leaving an eye-catching peach color.

In 2020, scientists in Antarctica took incredible photographs of ‘watermelon snow’ painting the pristine white wilderness a vibrant pink.

Stunning images taken near a former British research station in Antarctica revealed the phenomenon.

The pictures were taken at the former British Faraday Station, which was sold to Ukraine for a token £1 in 1996.

It is now known as Vernadsky Station and the blood-colored snow was revealed by Ukraine’s ministry of science and education.

The Ukrainian scientists said: ‘Such snow contributes to climate change, because the red-raspberry color snow reflects less sunlight and melts faster.

‘As a result, more and more bright algae are formed in the snow.’

Vernadsky Research Base is located on Galindez Island in the Argentine Islands. 



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