Blood of the Glaciers: everything you need to know about this surprising weather phenomenon

Blood of the Glaciers: everything you need to know about this surprising weather phenomenon

The “blood of the glaciers” or “red snow” is a phenomenon of increasing concern. For several years, scientists have been studying this anomaly, which does not bode well for the health of glaciers.

An irregularity that lives up to its name. For millennia, when spring arrives, the snow on the peaks of certain glaciers has turned pink or red. It is in fact red microalgae that become more and more visible as the ice melts. Permanently present on some mountains, these microorganisms are less visible in winter as it is their dormant season.

When spring comes, the algae move with the water from the glaciers to reach a certain height to thrive, between about 3,000 and 3,700 meters. It owes its red color to the sun’s rays. Present in many places such as Antarctica, Norway or Italy, the “blood of the glaciers” occurs when microalgae proliferate. An event called “Bloom”.

An imbalance in the ecosystem

Like global warming and Saharan sand, red microalgae are accelerating ice melting. It is therefore an additional threat to high mountain glaciers. Conversely, melting snow threatens the algae that live there.

In 2021, researchers launched the “Alpaca” project, which aims to study these microorganisms, but also their entire ecosystem, which contains a number of unknown species.

Eric Maréchal, director of the Cell and Plant Physiology Laboratory at CEA-Grenoble and leader of the Alpalga project, told AFP that this new ecosystem is “evolving very quickly” and that “there is an urgent need to study it”.

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