Pink Algae Bloom in Italian Alps Sparks Climate Concerns

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Many skiers in the western United States are familiar with the phenomenon of “watermelon snow,” a pink algae bloom appearing at high altitudes in the summer months. But the appearance of pink algae in Italy, where it was previously uncommon, sparked concerns this week over glacial melt.

These algae decrease the albedo on the snow surface—the amount of light energy reflected by the snow—and thereby absorb more heat. Glacier ice normally reflects 80 percent of the sun’s energy. But the darker the color on the snow surface, the more quickly they increase in temperature and melt.

The discovery of the algae on the Presena Glacier caused a stir among scientists because Italian glaciers are already receding at an alarming rate. Known by its Latin name, Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, the algae thrives in a positive feedback loop of melting snow. The…

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