What if you could get the best of both worlds with watermelon colored snow?
Recently Yosemite National Park announced that the adorable phenomena of watermelon snow, an instance of varying hues of pink and white snow, was occurring seemingly despite it being summer across the U.S. The pink snow, also called red snow or blood snow, is caused by a specific algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis that thrives in freezing temperatures and liquid water, and lives on top of snow, according to Travel and Leisure.
“It may be August, but there is still plenty of snow and ice above 9,500 feet! This reddish colored snow is often called watermelon snow. The red or pink color is the usually green algae's natural sunscreen, protecting itself from too much heat and damaging UV radiation,” said Yosemite National Park in a tweet.
It may be August, but there is still plenty of snow and ice above 9,500 feet! This reddish colored snow is often called watermelon snow. The red or pink color is the usually green algae's natural sunscreen, protecting itself from too much heat and damaging UV radiation. pic.twitter.com/bfOSIadT4l— Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) August 5, 2019
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It may be August, but there is still plenty of snow and ice above 9,500 feet! If you look closely in the first image you may notice a slight reddish color to the snow. The second image is a close up example of the coloration. Ever see this and wonder what it is? Some snow, typically found at high elevations (9,500’+) where snow persists even through the summer months, can appear pink or red. The color comes from a cold-loving algae, Chlamydomonas nivalis, that thrives in freezing temperatures and liquid water, living on the snow. This algae is typically green but contains a special red pigment called a carotenoid that acts as a protective barrier, shielding the algae’s chlorophyll. Since chlorophyll is necessary for its survival, it uses this natural type of sunscreen to protect itself from too much heat and damaging UV radiation. The pigment dyes the surrounding area a darker color, giving the effect of a pink or red snow field, and allows the snow to heat up faster and melt more quickly. Though, even with melting snow most trails in the high country may still have variable conditions, such as snow, mud, water crossings and other hazards. Hikers and Backpackers should be aware that trail conditions can change throughout the day. If conditions are not ideal for you, turn back, and try your hike or backpacking trip another time. It is not worth risking your safety to finish your hike. First image is of an unnamed lake in the high country. #Yosemite #NationalPark #WatermelonSnow #ScienceIsCool
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Watermelon Snow (or Blood Snow) between Burroughs peaks 2 & 3. Aristotle wrote about it, and it puzzled high alpine and coastal explorers for thousands of years. Turns out it’s just a green algae that has a natural red pigment that protects it from bright UV light. #watermelonsnow #bloodsnow #hiking #washingtonstate #pacificnorthwest #scienceiscool
Yosemite National Park isn’t the only place that has the pink hued algae. Other places include Glacier National Park, parts of Colorado, and northern areas of Sweden and Switzerland.
The watermelon snow might look appetizing — think watermelon or cherry slushy — officials warn that you shouldn’t consume it.
"Although it probably isn't harmful to eat, we certainly don't recommend it," Yosemite Park’s public affairs officer Scott Gediman told Today. “Like the water in the high country streams, it is probably safe to drink. However, we highly recommend treating all water before drinking since there is the possibility of giardia, a bacteria that can make you very sick. Therefore, all snow (watermelon or not) should be treated before consuming.”
The algae also apparently causes the snow to melt a bit faster, so park officials warn that hikers should still be careful and be wary if a trail seems too dangerous. So if you’re one of the few in the quest for getting your own shot of the watermelon snow for Instagram, make sure you’re prepared adequately for the trip.