'Watermelon snow' turning mountains pink and red in Utah

Subscribe | UPI Odd Newsletter

June 21 (UPI) -- Mountain snow in a Utah county is turning shades of red, pink and orange due to what experts said is a phenomenon called watermelon snow.

Visitors to the Cache County mountains captured photos showing the unusual hue to the remaining snow, and scientists said it is a natural phenomenon caused by a blooming green algae, Chlamydomonas nivalis, which is found in mountain ranges around the world.


"The snow algae produce a pigment that basically darkens their cells, and it acts as both a protection against UV, so it protects their DNA and other aspects of their organelles from damage because they're in such a bright place," Hotaling told KTVX-TV.

"But then also, it has a secondary benefit of causing their cells to absorb heat which melts the snow around them which allows them to actually access water because, you know, we're out here in a world of water right now but none of it is accessible," he said.

Scientists said earlier this year that the amount of the algae found in the western United States could be contributing to drought conditions.

"There's a lot of evidence now that shows that these algal blooms contribute rather significantly to overall melt of snowpack around the West," Scott Hotaling, a professor in the Watershed Sciences Department at Utah State University, told KUER radio.


Latest Headlines