Lonar Lake, located about 310 miles from India’s capital Mumbai, is a popular tourist destination so it was a shock when visitors to the site last week arrived to see water that was bright red.
Though scientists think they know the source of the change in color, they are not entirely sure. The lake was formed 50,000 years ago when an asteroid hit the earth. It is classified as a National Geo-heritage monument and has a maximum length of about 6 000 feet and a maximum depth of 490 feet.
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One local scientist suggested a cause for the sudden change of color.
“Salinity in the lake has increased as the water level has gone down drastically this year and it has become warmer too resulting in overgrowth of algae,” geologist Gajanan Kharat said in a video posted by the state-run Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation on Twitter. “This algae turns reddish in warmer temperatures and hence the lake turned pink overnight.”
The water in the lake is both saline and alkaline. Several saline lakes around the world are noted for their rosy hue. Though normally devoid of life, single-celled organisms known as halobacteria thrive in high-salinity environments. Rather than using green-pigmented chlorophyll, halobacteria rely on the purple-pigmented bacteriorhodopsin to absorb sunlight.
Kharat noted that officials were still waiting for results of tests carried out on water samples.