Puget Sound beaches are turning the color of tomato soup this week while the Cascades are sporting pink snow.
The isolated incidents are natural phenomena caused by unusually pigmented algae. Both, experts say, could be signs of a changing environment.
The orange-ish Puget Sound waters are caused by an algae called Noctiluca, according to the Washington State Department of Ecology.
Ecology staffers have found it this month at Saltwater State Park in Des Moines, Seattle’s Alki Beach and in Budd Inlet, among other places.
The algal blooms become more common in spring and summer when water, fueled by human-created nutrients, becomes warmer.
"An increase in the abundance of Noctiluca is an indication of an unbalanced system, and while the plankton is not toxic itself, their presence creates a cascade of effects in the marine food web," Ecology wrote on their ECOconnet blog.
Noctiluca blooms have been observed in Puget Sound since the 1940’s, Ecology said.
"There is growing concern that human-caused nutrient over-enrichment is increasing the intensity, changing the timing and increasing the spatial distribution of Noctiluca blooms," the blog reported.
Meanwhile, high up in the Cascades and Olympics, so-called watermelon snow is making an appearance. The phenomenon is also caused by algae. This one is called Chlamydomonas nivalis, and it loves cold.
KING-TV recently interviewed a researcher at Western Washington University who studies watermelon snow. Robin Kodner, an assistant professor of biology, said the algae isn't new and can be found from Peru to the Arctic.
Kodner doesn't recommend eating watermelon snow.
She and other researchers think the algae can be both a sign and cause of melting snow pack. The darker snow, they suggest, causes the snow to melt faster, create more algae and speed up climate change.