Visitors of the Rocky Mountains have taken notice of the “watermelon snow” covering parts of the geological formation near Utah.
Hikers, campers and recreationists are reportedly seeing remnants of an “abnormally wet winter” with the pink, purple and orange snow that remains present on mountain grounds even at the start of summer, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The not-for-profit news agency reports that the pigmented snow has been spotted on mountain ranges near Park City, Bear River Range and the Utah-Idaho border, and it has reportedly sparked interest with locals and tourists.
Snow algae are “single-celled organisms” that exist in bodies of fresh and salt water, but “have adapted to thrive in temperatures near freezing,” according to the USGS.
The algae can also take on other hues, such as blue, green, brown and gray.
“They need some kind of pigmentation to prevent damage related to the high-UV of the environment they’re in,” said Hotaling. “So they produce the secondary pigment largely for that purpose to protect themselves,” he said.
Is watermelon snow safe?
Watermelon snow hasn’t been shown to be harmful to the health of humans and wildlife, but experts continually advise the public to refrain from eating pink-hued snow.
Hiker Jana Brough holds a handful of pink-hued snow in her hands at Tony Grove Lake near Logan, Utah on Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Hotaling told the AP that watermelon snow doesn’t pose an immediate danger by itself, pigmented snow shouldn’t be consumed because its often in contact with dirt and dust, which can contain toxins.