Sunday, February 04, 2007

Multicolored snow

I've mentioned in several occasions how exciting is for me to hear about strange things that happen in our strange world. What I forgot to mention is that sometimes, such strange things are not amusing at all; moreover, they're scary.
This is one of those frightening strange things that happen. A note that appeared today in The Globe and Mail says that there was a snowfall lately in the Russian region of Siberia. The interesting (and maybe tragic) part is that the snow was not very conventional: Its color was not white, but yellow, green and orange. What is more disgusting, is that this snow (if such name can be given to it) was accompanied by a nauseating rotten smell.
Local authorities in the city of Omsk, close to the place where the snowfall occurred, have warned the population about the possible health risks of drinking or using the snow in any way. Meanwhile, some samples of the snow have been collected to be analyzed, which will determine its composition.
The note doesn't go much further than this information. However, there are already some theories that could somehow explain the origins of this phenomenon. One of the most worrying (but feasible) is the constant release of mercury into the environment from Siberian communities in the region of Lake Baikal. I'm not a chemist, and my knowledge about chemistry is quite reduced, so I wouldn't know what are the potential effects of mixing mercury with snow although I'm sure that it's not a desirable combination whatsoever.
Another theory suggests that what's contained in the snow is actually some type of petrol product. I can't determine if that would be more or less harmful than having the mercury on it, but it'd be equally deceiving.
I think that it's not a real surprise to have this type of phenomenon in such area of the world. Let's not forget that some of the countries with the worst environmental records, such as China, are located nearby. And Russia itself does have a bad reputation in terms of sustainability and environment friendly industries. It wouldn't be surprising to find that the rain that falls in that specific region has the same composition of this snow. But all of this is simple speculation, nothing has been proven yet.
What is for sure, is that this disgusting snow has been made possible thanks to the magic of human destruction of the environment and poor governmental regulations (and supervision) to promote greener industries and exploitation of resources.
For those who were skeptical about the consequences of global warming and lack of sustainable policies, does this make you change your mind?

To read the original report in The Globe and Mail, click here.


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