Mysterious pink ice in the Alps has sparked fears that it could worsen the effects of climate change, experts have warned.
The ice is thought to be caused by the algae, which is similar to plants found in Greenland and at Earth’s poles.
Di Mauro said, “The alga is not dangerous, it is a natural phenomenon that occurs during the spring and summer periods in the middle latitudes but also at the Poles.”
The plant, Ancylonema nordenskioeldii, has been sighted on the Presena glacier.
White ice reflects up to 80% of the sun’s radiation back into the atmosphere, but algae darken the ice, making it absorb more heat and melt faster.
Di Mauro said: “Everything that darkens the snow causes it to melt because it accelerates the absorption of radiation.
“We are trying to quantify the effect of other phenomena besides the human one on the overheating of the Earth.”
Many of the glaciers in the Alps are already under threat due to climate change, with experts predicting glaciers will vanish from half of UN-designated World Heritage sites this century unless greenhouse gas emissions are curbed.
Sites in the Swiss Alps such as the Grosser Aletschgletscher will see ice vanish, the researchers warned.
Researchers plotted glaciers at World Heritage locations – identifying a total of some 19,000 over 46 sites – and used data modelling to predict ice loss based on how much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases the world emits between now and 2100.
Nearly half the World Heritage sites – 21 out of a total of 46 that have glaciers – will lose all their ice by 2100 under a high-emissions scenario, they found.
Even under a low-emissions model, eight of the sites will be ice-free by the start of the next century, the report said.