Snow algae on Alaskan glaciers

Seven species of snow algae were observed on Alaskan glaciers (green algae and cyanobacteria). Each species has some preferable conditions on the glaciers. Most of the species are common in other places in the Northern Hemisphere. Following algae are collected on Gulkana Glacier in the Alaska Range.

Chlamydomonas nivalis (Green alga)

This is most well-known snow alga. Bloom of this alga causes visible red snow (watermelon snow). This species is common in North America, Japan, Arctic, Patagonia. The algae prefer snow surface rather than ice on glaciers. The pictures above are different life stage of the alga.

Ancylonema nordenskioldii (Greeen alga)

This is dominant species in ice area of Alaska glaciers. Also, this is common in arctic and Himalayan glaciers.

Mesotaenium breggrenii (common on ice in world wide)

Raphidonema sp.

Cylindrocystis brebissonii

Oscillatoriaceae alga 1 (cyanobacteria)

Oscillatoriaceae alga 2 (cyanobacteria)


  • Takeuchi, N. (2001): The altitudinal distribution of snow algae on an Alaska glacier (Gulkana Glacier in the Alaska Range), Hydrological Processes, 3447-3459. [Abstract]
  • Takeuchi, N., Koshima, S., and Segawa, T. (2003): Effect of cryoconite and snow algal communities on surface albedo on maritime glaciers in south Alaska, Bulletin of Glaciological Research, 20, accepted [Abstract]

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