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That’s not blood. It’s snow melting too quickly

World

That’s not blood. It’s snow melting too quickly

Scientists race to understand the phenomenon of accelerated snowmelt that is affecting the Alps disproportionately

Cecile Mantovani and Denis Balibouse

Standing on a snowy mountainside about 2,500m above sea level, Eric Marechal holds up a crimson test-tube. Inside is an algae sample known as “snow blood”, a phenomenon that accelerates Alpine thaw and that scientists worry is spreading.

“These algae are green. But when it’s in the snow, it accumulates a little pigment like sunscreen to protect itself,” said Marechal, research director at Grenoble’s Scientific Research National centre, who was collecting laboratory samples on Le Brevent mountain with teammates.

About his feet, patches of red snow can be seen gleaming in the sunlight...

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