Pink ice worry in Alps | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:07 AM, July 07, 2020

Pink ice worry in Alps

Scientists in Italy are investigating the mysterious appearance of pink glacial ice in the Alps, caused by algae that accelerate the effects of climate change.

There is debate about where the algae come from, but Biagio Di Mauro of Italy's National Research Council said the pink snow observed on parts of the Presena glacier is likely caused by the same plant found in Greenland.

"The alga is not dangerous, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles," said Di Mauro, who had previously studied the algae at the Morteratsch glacier in Switzerland.

The plant, known as Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, is present in Greenland's so-called Dark Zone, where the ice is also melting.

Normally ice reflects more than 80 percent of the sun's radiation back into the atmosphere, but as algae appear, they darken the ice so that it absorbs the heat and melts more quickly.

More algae appear as the ice melts more rapidly, giving them vital water and air and adding red hues to the white ice at the Passo Gavia, altitude 2,618 metres (8,590 feet).

Tourists at the glacier lament the impact of climate change.

"Overheating of the planet is a problem, the last thing we needed was algae," said tourist Marta Durante.

"Unfortunately we are doing irreversible damage. We are already at the point of no return, I think."

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