YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (CBS13) – Warning: Just because it’s called “watermelon snow” doesn’t mean it will taste like it.
The calendar reads August, but parts of Yosemite National Park above 9,500’ are still covered in patches of snow. It’s not too unusual a sight during the summer months in higher elevations of Yosemite, but hikers are taking notice of rose-tinted snow.
Turns out, a cold-loving algae is behind the phenomena.
It may be August, but there is still plenty of snow and ice above 9,500 feet! This reddish colored snow is often called watermelon snow. The red or pink color is the usually green algae's natural sunscreen, protecting itself from too much heat and damaging UV radiation. pic.twitter.com/bfOSIadT4l
— Yosemite National Park (@YosemiteNPS) August 5, 2019
Chlamydomonas nivalis, officials say, thrives in the freezing cold temperatures of the high country. While naturally green, this algae owes its red color to a special pigment it has that acts as a natural sunscreen – creating the watermelon snow effect.
Of course, like with other funny colored snow (like yellow), people would be wise to not eat watermelon snow.
Hikers are being advised be prepared for a multitude of conditions at Yosemite. Snow, mud, water crossings and other hazards still abound even this deep into summer.