Meteorological Anomaly: The Curious Case of the Pink Snow (December 31, 2009)
Philadelpha- Less than eight hours before the arrival of 2010, Hilltown police began what was likely their strangest investigation of 2009. On Revere Drive, just off of Chalfont Road, there was pink snow everywhere. "It was on the roofs, the grass and the nearby woods," said Officer Matthew Reiss, who arrived at the scene around 4:30 p.m. "I had no idea what we were dealing with." Reiss called the Federal Aviation Administration to see if the strange substance could have fallen from a plane. "It was covering the entire length of the roofs of seven homes," said Reiss. "I picked up some the snow that was on the ground. It had no odor or oily texture." As the police continued to probe the mystery of the pink snow, a resident came out and told Reiss that her son went on the Internet and believes he had found the culprit. "She said that it was 'watermelon snow' that was from an algae, whose name I wouldn't try to pronounce," said Reiss. The algae are chlamydomonas nivalis, or snow algae, that owe their red color to a bright red carotenoid pigment. According to the National Geographic Web site, the snow algae, like all algae, are green at heart; the red comes from the secondary pigment. Usually in a dormant stage in winter, at times they "wake up" germinate, and squirm up through the ice crystals toward the sunlight, coloring the snow.
Reiss said the pink snow was only on the sections of roof that faced the sun. According to one source, watermelon snow has puzzled mountain climbers, explorers, and naturalists for thousands of years. Well, on this New Year's Eve, at least for a short time, it had a Hilltown police officer and the residents of Revere Drive scratching their heads as well. The Philly Burbs Article