Scientists based at Ukraine's Vernadsky Research Base in Antarctica awoke to a frightful view just a few weeks ago. The ice surrounding them was drenched in red, offering blood curdling images and assumptions.
Even though the scene looked like a horror movie, the scientists discovered the red ice wasn't due to some horrid massacre, instead, it highlighted pertinent climate change issues.
Red snow means dire implications
Marine ecologist Andrey Zotov from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine snapped up the images while based at the Antarctic station. What Zotov and his colleagues did not yet realize was that the culprits behind these captivating images were misjudgingly small.
Sharing the images on a Facebook post, the team explained that "Our scientists have identified them under a microscope as Chlamydomonas nivalis."
Interestingly, these tiny algae start their lives as green and are common in all icy and snowy regions around the world.
The C. nivalis spend the beginning of their life cycle slumbering over the wintertime, and once the sunlight starts warming up the world around them, they start to wake up and bloom.
As they mature, these initially green little algae turn to red thanks to a secondary insulating cell wall and a layer of red carotenoids. "This layer protects the algae from ultraviolet radiation," explained the National Antarctic Scientific Centre of Ukraine in their Facebook post.
Climate change effects
Unfortunately, "[The algal blooms] contribute to climate change," also stated the Centre.
These algal blooms lower the amount of light reflected from the snow by up to 13%. This then "invariably result in higher melt rates" said the Centre.
It's a vicious cycle, as with more rising global temperatures lead to more crystalized water melting, which leads to more algae growth, which leads to more melting, and so on and so forth.
The positive aspect to take away from the C. nivalis is that it leads to what's called "watermelon snow," which smells sweet. Don't go gobbling the sweet-smelling snow up though, as the algae are toxic to humans.
What caused Antarctica's ice to turn blood red? https://t.co/ga9RZNI0Uj— euronews knowledge (@euronewsknwldge) February 25, 2020