The Colors of the Polar Regions

When you imagine the colors of the polar regions, what picture first comes to your mind? Probably thick layers of white ice extending as far as your eyes can see, right? With the temperatures reaching far below zero and the sun not shining for months in the winter, it is easy to think that the poles will be one endless expanse of snow.

But the colors of the polar regions are not all white. Various animals, plants, and natural phenomena give this icy landscape other vibrant colors like blue, red, green, and black.

Take a look at these pictures and see some of the most colorful things on the poles. They prove that these places are not simply vast white spaces.

1. Blood Falls

Blood Falls
Image Credit: National Science Foundation/Peter Rejcek

Blood falls of Taylor Glacier, Antarctica is blood red in colour. Recent studies indicate the presence of iron particles in the oceanwater below the glacier. The outflow brings the iron-laden saline water into contact with the atmosphere, forming rust, that gives the red colour to the falls

2. Aurora Borealis Kiruna

Image Credit: Martin Eklund

A natural phenomenon in the polar regions called Aurora illuminates the night sky with colourful lights. Charged particles coming from the sun interacts with earths magnetosphere (an atmospheric layer with magnetic activity), leading to this elegant show of lights at the poles.

3. Bioluminescence in Norra Grundsund Harbor

Bioluminescence in Norra Grundsund harbor
Image Credit: W.Carter

Copepods are minute organisms that emanate a blue glow due to a biochemical phenomenon that illuminates the water bodies during polar nights. This phenomenon is known as bioluminescence- the same phenomenon behind how fireflies glow.

4. Jarosite

Image Credit: Christian Rewitzer

In 2004, the Opportunity rover discovered the presence of jarosite on Mars. However, this tawny, Martian mineral is also found on Earth, in Antarctica. This rare rock is believed to have formed in ice pockets in Antarctica from sulfates of potassium and iron. This mineral is used in the purification process of various metals.

5. Midnight Sun

Midnight Sun
Image Credit: Hafsteinn Robertsson

Usually, we see the moon in the night sky. However, Iceland and some other countries in the Arctic region have plenty of sunlight even during the night on the day of the summer solstice and for several months thereafter. Since the Earth is tilted on its axis, the sun does not set in the polar regions for a certain period in summer.

6. Blue Ice in Dawes Glacier

Image Credit: Kylerush

The regular ice in our freezer looks white. However, the ice in the glaciers of Antarctica is blue. These glaciers are layers of ice that get compressed together, such that bubbles get removed, and the ice crystals enlarge. The removal of bubbles prevents the scattering of light, imparting blue color to the denser, glacial ice.

7. Mount Erebus

Image Credt:

Mount Erebus is an odd spot in the cold and frozen Antarctica. It is an active volcano that throws up gases and rocks. In 1972, a lava lake was also formed in this volcano. Lava lakes are large amounts of hot, molten rocks that are present in a volcanic crater of an active volcano.

8. Colored Beach with Penguins

Image Credit: Gaston Lacombe

At Esperanza Base, a flock of Adelie penguin as many as 250000 can be seen. This place gives a different hue every other day. On some days, this region is red due to algal bloom, sometimes the colors are pinkish, mostly due to defecation by penguins, which survive on krill, a type of pink crustacean. Even the snowfall can cause varying colors on different days.

9. Antarctic Pearlworts

Image Credit: Liam Quinn

Flowers are one of the most beautiful creations in nature. Antarctica is harsh and cold, but the continent has two species of flowering plants, one being Antarctic pearlworts, that produce yellow flowers, the other being Antarctic hair grass. Antarctic hair grass is also the southernmost plant that blooms on Earth.


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