Pure as the driven snow? That depends where one’s been driving. Though most typically white, snow can take on a rainbow of different hues due to a wide spectrum of environmental conditions, or it might only seem colored due to tricks of the light and the mind. Whatever way, the results can range from ugly to beautiful, and in some cases even tasty!
The same sort of sooty aerosols that have begrimed cities and towns since the start of the Industrial Revolution can contaminate rain and snow. Though less commonplace today as commercial and residential users have switched from dirty coal to cleaner fuels, black snow still falls occasionally in localized areas when weather conditions combine with large-scale releases of particulate smoke.
(image via: Kavehkhkh)
There’s something sad, almost depressing about black snow. Depictions of Nuclear Winter following an apocalyptic future war will sometimes add black snow into the mix – it’s cold, dirty, ugly and the antithesis of the magical Christmas-y spirit we associate with bright fields of white, virgin snow.
Grey snow is often caused by the same factors that produce black snow, albeit in a more diffused manner. As well, the influence of volcanic eruptions and subsequent large infusions of ash into the air can lead to grey snowfalls over wide areas. In a more prosaic vein, most any urban denizen with access to busy city streets will often associate old, grey roadside snowbanks with the coming end of a long winter.
(image via: Mararie)
The aerial photo above displays a widespread expanse of grey snowfields in the European Alps. Whether the dreary greyness is a result of pollution or simply an artifact of passing clouds one cannot say.
Purple mountain’s majesty? There’s nothing like rich, royal purple to bring out the best in snowfalls old or new. Most commonly observed at sunrise or sunset, violet snows occur when trillions of naturally reflective snow crystals amplify and reflect the subtle lavender tint of a twilight sky. Of course, leaving a pot of African Violets outside in bad weather will also do the trick.
(image via: Outdoors Webshots)
The right time, the right lighting and the age-old magic of Venice all come together fortuitously in the above photo of Venetian gondolas dusted by a rare early evening snowstorm.
Of all the possible colors, tints and hues snow can take on, blue is perhaps the least incongruous. Clouds, the sea, glacial ice, even our planet from space all appear blue, so the cerulean cast reflected so beautifully by snow appears anything but out of place.
(image via: Burning Issues)
The photographic image above was taken from the interior of an ice cave on Canada’s far northern Ellesmere Island, looking out in the direction of the North Pole. The snow and ice displays a markedly blue shade that both matches and complements that of the frigid arctic sky.
Green Christmas isn’t always the result of a lack of snow. A certain type of algae called Chlamydomonas can tint snow seaweed green. The images above were taken in, of all places, Antarctica – pretty much the last place you’d expect to see anything green. Chlamydomonas algae may be unsightly but it’s harmless, and can be found in wintery alpine regions around the world.
(image via: Rachel Is Coconut&Lime)
Overcast skies can cause snow to look green under the right conditions. The above image neither needs nor provides any explanation; it merely entertains the eye with the sweet seasonal contrast of aquamarine snow and the scarlet sweater worn by one very cool dog… whose name happens to be Violet.
“Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow!” The people of Russia’s far eastern island of Sakhalin didn’t need to be told Frank Zappa’s wise maxim in February of 2009 when snow of an “ugly yellow color” fell in copious amounts. The snowfall was expected as the remnants of a tropical cyclone were due to sweep across the island but the odd color provoked shock and alarm. When melted, the yellow snow was said to leave an oily residue and exuded a “revolting smell”. Analysis of the snow showed above average concentrations of iron and heavy metals, leading Russian scientists to state the smelly snow was contaminated by emissions from power plants and chemical industries upwind.
A more natural – though no less odoriferous – source of yellow snow was discovered high up in the Canadian arctic in 2006. A team led by Canadian geologists Drs. Stephen Grasby and Benoit Beauchamp has been exploring several sulfur springs that have stained overlying snow and ice a bright, lemon yellow color. The phenomenon has piqued the interest of NASA as it’s thought the process could be similar to tinted icy terrain seen on Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Back to Russia again, this time for orange snow that fell heavily in western Siberia near the city of Omsk in early 2007. As with the previously mentioned yellow snowfalls, the orange snow reportedly had a “musty” scent and felt oily or greasy to the touch. Rush hour must have been a REAL mess.
(images via: Red October)
“Residents are advised not to use snow for their household or technical needs and to limit walking, either by people or their pets, in this area,” according to governmental authorities who arranged for an investigating team to visit Omsk, which has a population of around 27,000 and is an industrial city centered on the oil industry… not a coincidence, one might guess.
Red snow usually looks like somebody spray-painted areas of freshly fallen white snow a rich Cherry Red hue. As the dark reddish areas absorb more heat from the sun, they tend to sink into the snow as the days go by. Red snow is a harmless natural phenomenon – not a crime scene – caused by the growth of algae from a slightly different strain than those that give rise to green snow.
(image via: Washburn)
The snowfield above, located on the side of California’s Mount Lassen, is tinged red by the presence of our old friend Chlamydomonas. This “snow-loving green algae” looks red due to the presence of carotenoids in their cells. It’s said that algae-induced red snow has a mildly sweet smell and tastes fruity – that’s why it’s known as “watermelon snow”. One more reason to pity those poor Russians.
(image via: Coolweblog)
(image via: Stacie Florer)
Pink snow is not uncommon in chill areas downwind from iron-rich arid or desert regions such as Utah or Colorado in the United States or parts of China east of the Gobi Desert. Rusty reddish dust gets swept into the atmosphere mixing with snow up in clouds, or it may blow on top of fresh snow in a diffuse fashion.
(image via: Dipity)
The end result is not unlike the scene in Dr. Seuss’s “The Cat In The Hat Comes Back”, when the Cat tossed his pink bathtub ring out the window and then enlisted his many alphabetic Little Cats to unsuccessfully disperse it in the snow.
(image via: Sushiesque)
Wouldn’t it be cool to live in a world where winter skies snow rainbow sherbet? Sure it would – and the rivers would run with lemonade and the trees would be made of cotton candy. There’s still rainbow snow – of a sort – in the real world though it’s a creation of Man, not Mother Nature. The above images show what happens when it snows after you install your Christmas lights. Pretty yes, tasty no.
(image via: Uuiuu)
Either a rainbow has come between the photographer and this snowy-roofed farmhouse or somebody’s up to a little darkroom (or photoshop) trickery. Either way, the above image allows one to imagine a world where colors slip and slide like snow boots on a slushy sidewalk.
Still lovin’ snow white? Keep in mind that even though Mary’s proverbial little lamb had fleece as white as snow, it paled (literally) in comparison to the Golden Fleece won by Jason and the Argonauts. Snow kidding.