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Image of Japan - The Government of Japan

Japan - The Government of Japan

Climate love

Colorful snow algae is blooming in Japan's alpine areas

On the slopes of Mount Gassan, one of the three , however, doesn’t stem from the vibrancy they bring to a remote, wintry landscape. Instead, it’s how they affect the natural balance in vulnerable ecosystems and their potential to perpetuate climate warming that has scientists conducting research on the 1,984 meter peak.

They are a result of snow algae, which thrive on melting snow surfaces. These colorful organisms proliferate throughout the snowpack each spring when increased sun intensity, nutrients and water availability provide favorable conditions for their growth. First, snow algae cells turn from spores into motile cells, and then they swim from the soil to the snow’s surface, where they photosynthesize and reproduce to form dense “blooms” of green, orange or red on the thawing snow.

Algal blooms reduce snow albedo, or the ability of snow to reflect sunlight, by as much as 40%. They also increase radiative forcing — or how much solar energy a surface absorbs — which causes a warming effect on the surrounding environment. These factors contribute to a faster rate of snow melting; a serious concern with global temperatures predicted to reach 1.5 degrees above preindustrial levels by the first half of the 2030s.

As such, snow algal blooms have become an object of academic research as potential predictors — and catalysts — of climate change.

Researchers from Chiba University, led by professor Nozomu Takeuchi, who has decades of experience studying organisms in snowpacks and glaciers around the world, set out for Mount Gassan in spring 2019. Takeuchi’s team collected colored snow samples from seven different locations on the mountain at elevations ranging from 700 to 1,650 meters above sea level.

“I have traveled across many mountain areas in Japan to study snow algae, but the algal blooms on Mt. Gassan are the most impressive for me, in terms of color, brightness and density,” Takeuchi says. “Although the reason for that is still uncertain.”

Do you agree?

50 more agrees trigger social media ads

  • Videlis Eddie

    50 w

    Good news

    • Daniel Waweru

      50 w

      Great news indeed

      • winnie nguru

        50 w

        This is incredible

        • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

          50 w

          good news

          • Tabitha Kimani

            50 w

            This is not a good thing. Melting of snow should be a warning not love.

            • Saustine Lusanzu

              50 w

              Good news to hear

              • Munene Mugambi

                50 w

                Good to see

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