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Pink snow that smells like watermelon seen in national park

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, February 1, 2018, 6:09 PM - Watermelon snow is one of nature's peculiarities.

It gets its name from its pinkish hue and also because of its smell, which is slightly sweet, just like a watermelon.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists Joe Giersch recently spotted the phenomenon at Glacier National Park and posted a photo to Instagram.

"Puddle near Grinnell Glacier filled with water from melted watermelon snow," reads the photo's description.

"Watermelon snow is formed by an algal species (Chlamydomonas nivalis) containing a red pigment in addition to chlorophyll. This pigment protects the algal chloroplast from solar radiation and absorbs heat, providing the alga with liquid water as the snow melts around it. As snow melts throughout the summer, the algae are concentrated in depressions on the snow surface (which further accelerates melting), with small populations persisting in puddles through the fall."

While watermelon snow may look pretty, it's not something conservationists want to see.

According to a study in Nature Communications, red algae can reduce a snow's albedo -- i.e., the ability to reflect light -- by up to 13 per cent. That means the snow absorbs more of the sun's energy and melts faster.

That -- coupled with the fact the area experienced above-average temperatures last month -- is contributing to an accelerated melting at the park this year.

VIDEO: Crack in Greenland glacier captured by NASA:

Sources: Instagram | Nature

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