‘Pink ice’ in Alps sparks global warming fears

Rob Waugh
An aerial picture taken on July 3, 2020, above the Presena glacier near Pellizzano. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Mysterious pink ice in the Alps has sparked fears that it could worsen the effects of climate change, experts have warned. 

The ice is thought to be caused by the algae, which is similar to plants found in Greenland and at Earth’s poles.

But experts fear the plant could actually accelerate the effects of climate change, Biagio Di Mauro of Italy’s National Research Council told The Guardian. 

Di Mauro said, “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.”

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The plant, Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, has been sighted on the Presena glacier. 

White ice reflects up to 80% of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but algae darken the ice, making it absorb more heat and melt faster. 

The pink snow is due to the presence of colonies of algae of the species Ancylonela nordenskioeldii from Greenland. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Di Mauro said: “Everything that darkens the snow causes it to melt because it accelerates the absorption of radiation.

“We are trying to quantify the effect of other phenomena besides the human one on the overheating of the Earth.”

Read more: A 1988 warning about climate change was mostly right

Many of the glaciers in the Alps are already under threat due to climate change, with experts predicting glaciers will vanish from half of UN-designated World Heritage sites this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.

Sites in the Swiss Alps such as the Grosser Aletschgletscher will see ice vanish, the researchers warned. 

Biagio di Maio points to pink-coloured snow. (Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Images)

Researchers plotted glaciers at World Heritage locations – identifying a total of some 19,000 over 46 sites – and used data modelling to predict ice loss based on how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the world emits between now and 2100.

Nearly half the World Heritage sites – 21 out of a total of 46 that have glaciers – will lose all their ice by 2100 under a high-emissions scenario, they found.

Even under a low-emissions model, eight of the sites will be ice-free by the start of the next century, the report said.

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