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What caused Antarctica's ice to turn blood red?

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By Marika Dimitriadi
Ukraine's scientific station in Antarctica seen in February 2020.
Ukraine's scientific station in Antarctica seen in February 2020.   -   Copyright  Biologist Andriy Zotov/ Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science

Ukrainian scientists got a shock when they woke up on Monday to find that the snow around their station had turned red as blood.

But rather than being anything sinister, the red tint in the snow is caused by the microscopic Chlamydomonas nivalis algae.

The algae flourishes in snow when the weather is good, Ukraine's Ministry of Education and Science explained in a Facebook post.

Уже кілька тижнів українська антарктична станція «Академік Вернадський» оточена… малиновим снігом! Звідки він та чому...

Publiée par Міністерство освіти і науки України sur Lundi 24 février 2020

But despite the weather, the spread of the algae contributes to climate change, scientists said.

It reflects less sunlight than when it is white and therefore melts faster. Only colder temperatures can render the algae dormant.

The phenomenon is also regularly observed in the Arctic, the Alps and other mountainous regions.

Earlier this month, temperatures in Antarctica reached a new record high, reaching 18.3 °C at the Esperanza station.

According to the UN's World Meteorological Organisation, the Antarctic Peninsula — defined as the northwest tip near to South America — is one of the "fastest-warming regions of the planet" with temperatures rising by almost 3°C over the past 50 years.