Summer is the season to cool off with a big chunk of watermelon. But there’s another kind of watermelon that’ll have you trading in your sandals for hiking boots if you want to experience it. While you’re not going to want to eat what some people call “watermelon snow,” researchers have found that having a better understanding of it could be important in a warming world.
In snowy places across the globe, “watermelon snow” forms as the summer sun heats up and melts winter’s leftovers. The colorful snow is made up of communities of algae that thrive in freezing temperatures and liquid water, resulting in algal blooms. When these typically green organisms get a lot of sun, they produce a natural type of sunscreen that paints the slopes pink and red. The addition of color to the surface darkens the snow, allowing it to heat up faster, and melt more quickly.