Why is some of our snow turning pink?
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Why is snow turning pink?
"There's a group of algae that have adapted to live in the snow habitat," said Robin Kodner, the lead scientist for the Living Snow Project at Western Washington University. "But they only start to grow in the springtime, when there's a lot of water saturating the snowpack."
Kodner said there are microbes living in snow all the time, but the algae causing the pink coloration on snow throughout the alpine regions of the state are unique. One hypothesis is that algae spores sit on soil surfaces, rocks, or ice, and in the winter months transform into swimming cells that can then settle on the surface of snow.
The good news for humans is that a pink snow bloom is not toxic, unlike green algae blooms on larger bodies of water downstream.
"They're actually pretty closely related to the types of algae that we sometimes put in smoothies," Kodner said.