Tag Archives: Pink

Argentinian lake turns bright pink due to industrial pollution

In Argentina’s southern Patagonia region, you can find a pink lake. It wasn’t always pink, obviously, and local activists blame pollution from fish-preserving industries for the change.

The change in color, according to local environmental engineers, has been caused by sodium sulfite, a salt used as an antibacterial agent in fish factories. Waste from such factories is dumped into the Chubut river that eventually drains into the Corfo lagoon (the one turned pink) and other bodies of water in the region. Locals have also complained repeatedly about the foul smells and environmental concerns they’re seeing around both the river and lagoon for some time now.

Pink as prawns

“Those who should be in control are the ones who authorize the poisoning of people,” environmental activist Pablo Lada told Agence France-Presse (AFP), blaming the government for the mess.

It all started last week when the lagoon’s water started taking on a pink hue. It stayed that way through to the weekend. Environmental engineer and virologist Federico Restrepo explained for AFP that the color is caused by sodium sulfite in fish waste. By law, he adds, this should be removed before any waste can be dumped.

It’s not the first time that the Corfo lagoon changed colors — it previously turned fuchsia due to runoff from the Trelew industrial park.

Fed up with the issue, nearby residents have taken to blocking the roads used by trucks carrying processed fish waste to treatment plants. Dozens of trucks are being turned around every day, according to locals. However, this has led provincial authorities to grant factories in the region permission to dump their waste directly in the lagoon.

“The colouring is due to the preservative, sodium sulphide, an antibacterial agent which also contaminates the water table of the Chubut River and the water supply of cities in the region. The law orders the treatment of such liquids before being dumped,” said Federico Restrepo.

Although the fish processing industry generates thousands of jobs in the region, locals are fed up with their flaunting of environmental regulations. “These are multi-million-dollar profit companies that don’t want to pay freight to take the waste to a treatment plant that already exists in Puerto Madryn, 35 miles away, or build a plant closer,” the AFP cites one local as saying.

Indian lake turns pink almost overnight

The water of Lonar Crater Lake in India is typically deep-green, but it has recently turned pink — almost overnight — and nobody knows why.

Image credits Maharashtra Tourism / Twitter.

I think it goes without saying that large bodies of water don’t typically just change color, but Lonar Lake did. The Indian landmark was a tourist attraction before, but it has now become a hotbed of visitors eager to see its bright pink waters.

Exactly what caused this change, or why it happened so fast, is as of yet unknown. 

Crater lake

The color change was captured best by two NASA images taken on May 25 and June 10 with the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. The waters changed color over the span of a few days, according to NASA.

“India’s Lonar Crater began causing confusion soon after it was identified in 1823 by a British officer named C.J.E. Alexander,” NASA says of the crater.

“Lonar Crater sits inside the Deccan Plateau—a massive plain of volcanic basalt rock leftover from eruptions some 65 million years ago. Its location in this basalt field suggested to some geologists that it was a volcanic crater. Today, however, Lonar Crater is understood to result from a meteorite impact that occurred between 35,000 and 50,000 years ago.”

Lonar Lake is located in India’s west-central state of Maharashtra, and it isn’t the only pink lake we know of. Lake Hillier in Australia is permanently pink, with the color likely produced by Halobacteriaceae, pink-colored microorganisms that inhabit its salty waters, and a species of single-cell algae called Dunaliella salina. When stressed, D. salina releases carotenoids (a class of molecules that give plants such as carrots their color), including an orange-red colored one.

But Lake Hillier doesn’t change its color — it’s always pink. One possible explanation of the shift in Lonar Lake could be a rise in salinity due to a long period of warm, dry weather promoting evaporation, as is the case with Lake Urmia in Iran (whose color changes seasonally). In other words, it could be going to a very dramatic and pink algal bloom. A chemically-induced change hasn’t been ruled out yet, however.

Lonar Lake is quite visually striking and remote, and as such is dotted with small temples along its rim. Due to its salinity and alkaline nature, the late doesn’t house much wildlife. It was the discovery of maskelynite (a type of natural glass produced during asteroid impacts) revealed its true origin.

The lake has always been unique, and this change in color only adds to its quirkiness. Exactly what caused this change is still unknown — as is whether the colors will switch back or not. But researchers will undoubtedly try to find out what’s going on here, and will keep the lake under observation while drawing samples to analyze.

Climate change is making the Arctic red — and we should be very worried about it

You’ve heard of yellow snow, but there is another shade you should fear even more: called pink, red or watermelon snow, researchers warn that this phenomenon is a worrying testament of drastic melting in the Arctic.

Red snow algae.
Image credits Iwona Erskine-Kellie.

Red snow isn’t new. The phenomenon was observed by the first arctic explorers, and it was initially believed to be caused by iron oxides permeating the snow. Since then, however, it has been established that the hue is a product of red algae that bloom in frozen water. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications shows that these blooms are causing the snow to melt faster and they’re only going to grow more rapidly as climate change causes Arctic snow to melt more.

One property of snow is high albedo, meaning it reflects a large proportion of incoming light instead of absorbing it as heat. The study found that over a 100-day period, the algae-rich snow has a 13% lower albedo than white snow. The catch is that while these algae bloom naturally, man-made global warming puts them on a positive feedback loop — higher average temperatures mean more snow is melting each year, providing the water that algae feed on, which in turn cause the snow to melt.

“As we infer from our data, melting is one major driver for snow algal growth,” the study notes. “Extreme melt events like that in 2012, when 97% of the entire Greenland Ice Sheet was affected by surface melting, are likely to re-occur with increasing frequency in the near future as a consequence of global warming. Moreover, such extreme melting events are likely to even further intensify the effect of snow algae on surface albedo, and in turn melting rates.”

That’s because the glacier melt, disproportionately driven by the rise in global temperatures, is effectively watering the red algae, says lead study author Steffi Lutz of the University of Leeds.

“The algae need liquid water in order to bloom,” she said. “Therefore the melting of snow and ice surfaces controls the abundance of the algae. The more melting, the more algae. With temperatures rising globally, the snow algae phenomenon will likely also increase leading to an even higher bio-albedo effect.”

As temperatures continue to rise, the Artic will keep taking on a bloody shade. Maybe it’s allergic to climate change.