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Blood Red Snow Covers Antarctic Outpost

The year 2020 has not started off well for the continent of Antarctica. In early February, the highest temperature in recorded history was reached 64.9 degrees Fahrenheit (18.3 degrees Celsius). A few days later, an iceberg the size of the U.S. city of Atlanta broke off of the Pine Island Glacier – one of the most watched chunks of ice on the planet because it has been calving frequently and these plus future icebergs are raising the ocean level. If that weren’t enough, this week the Ukrainian Antarctic station “Academician Vernadsky” was hit by the classic Fortean phenomena of blood red snow. Are these signs? Should we be worried? Who do we believe?

“For a few weeks, the Ukrainian Antarctic station “Academician Vernadsky” has been otočena… raspberry snow!” (Google translation)

The Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine posted pictures and information about the red snow on its Facebook page on February 24. (Other pictures here.) To prevent any panic or misinterpretation of the “raspberry” snow and ice, the Ministry gave the biological explanation for the phenomena.

“Our scientists have identified them under a microscope as Chlamydomonas nivalis chlamydomonas.”


“Because, besides green pigment – chlorophyll, their cells contain also a red carotene layer, red spots occur on snow as if from raspberry jam. By the way, this layer protects algae from ultraviolet radiation.”

Chlamydomonas nivalis chlamydomonas

Yes, red snow is a good thing … at least for the algae giving it that color. Summer is nearing an end in Antarctica, so the algae needs all the red color it can generate to protect itself. That’s especially true this summer with the record high temperatures. Climate change?

“”Blossom” of snow contributes to climate change. Because of red-raspberry coloring, snow less hitting sunlight and melts faster. As a result, it forms more bright seaweed.”

It’s both a cause and effect of climate change. If anyone would know this, it’s the scientists at Vernadsky Research Base, the only Ukrainian Antarctic station, whose mission is research geophysics, meteorology, and ionospherics using meteorology, upper atmospheric physics and studies of geomagnetism, ozone, seismology, glaciology and more. The 12-person base was opened by the UK in 1947 as Faraday Station and is a center for long-term temperature studies. According to a 2013 report on daily observed temperatures from 1947 to 2011, we’ve got bigger problems than raspberry snow.

“Faraday/Vernadsky is experiencing a significant warming trend of about 0.6°C/decade (1.1°F) over the last few decades. Concurrently, the magnitude of extremely cold temperatures has reduced.”

So yes, the red snow is biological, not Fortean, and it’s a sign.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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