snow algae

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Watermelon snow also called snow algae among other names is when the snow is contaminated with Chlamydomonas nivalis, a species of green algae containing a secondary red carotenoid pigment in addition to chlorophyll. 

Neonatural: Watermelon Snow

Watermelon snow, also called snow algae, red snow, or blood snow, is Chlamydomonas nivalis, a species of green algae containing a secondary red carotenoid pigment in addition to chlorophyll. This phenomenon is especially common during the summer months in the Sierra Nevada of California where snow has lingered from winter storms, mainly at altitudes of 10,000 to 12,000 feet.

Greetings from the High Cascades!

My collaborator (and molecular microbiologist extraordinaire) Dr. Trinity Hamilton snapped this picture of me harvesting snow algae from the surface of Collier Glacier on the flank of the North Sister in Central Oregon. In the background (looking north, from left to right) you can see Belknap Crater, Mt. Washington, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Hood, and the very top of Mt. Adams on the hazy horizon. In the foreground are Little Brother (left) and Collier Cone (right). Not a bad way to start the morning collecting geochemical and microbiological samples!

Wish you were here (esp. to help filter water and carry out rocks)!

Jeff R. Havig, Ph.D., University of Cincinnati

Watermelon snow, also called snow algae, red snow, or blood snow, is Chlamydomonas nivalis, a species of green algae containing a secondary red carotenoid pigment in addition to chlorophyll. This phenomenon is especially common during the summer months in the Sierra Nevada of California where snow has lingered from winter storms, mainly at altitudes of 10,000 to 12,000 feet. Compressing the snow with your boot leaves a distinct footprint the color of watermelon pulp. The snow even has a fresh watermelon scent.