Orange snow in Siberia

Nov 14, 2006
Laguja, Estonia, Europe
Estonian newspaper Postimees has picked up a news story that orange snow fell in Omsk oblast, Russia on Wednesday. Russian Emergency Situations Ministerium has sent outside lab and officials to Omsk who must determine, why is the snow having that strange color. People are asked to not go to places where there came orange snow and to melt water from it.

What do you think? What could have caused that?
One would have to look at downwind environmental is common for snow to change color if an environmental agent impacts it.

Colored snow is known to be caused by "snow algae", algae that thrives in plants and is released in fallen snow...but this is not "FALLING" snow. This sort of colored snow takes time and is not observed as falling precipitation.

Sandstorms will cause snow to take on a brownish hue in many cases. Reddish snow can be caused by dirt and or sand as well.

I have an unconfirmed picture of this orange snow, found on a site called Alamy and claiming to be from Estonia. Here is the link:{D551D83F-BEE8-46DB-B448-C0E2B15105EA}/AE71M9.jpg

Another link:

This one is also claimed to be taken in Estonia, and the orange hint is "from the radioactive cucumber factory". (raises eyebrows).

However, the hue orange is diametrically different from these observed colors and certainly is a rarity - I am wondering if there was any release of aeresol/agents into the atmosphere around that area to give the falling snow an orange hue. According to this link,

there are a considerable number of oil, gas, and industrial facilities in this area. Due to that fact, and the fact another source reports a musty smell with the snow*, I would be reasonable in suspecting this is an industrial emission that has transformed this snow to a hopefully non-toxic cotton candy.

* Regnum News, Internet source.
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What in the beginning was just a curiosity is now becoming a concern. Take a look at this news piece from a news agency in Russia:

MOSCOW, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - A public warning was issued in West Siberia's Omsk Region on Thursday after polluted snow came down, yellowed and oil-stained.

"The snow fell over an area of about 1,500 square meters at around 1:15 p.m. Moscow time [10:15 a.m. GMT] yesterday, January 31," Emergency Situations Ministry spokesman Viktor Beltsov said.

People living within the contaminated zone have been warned against melting the snow down to obtain water, and advised to avoid stepping on it wherever possible, he said.

The affected area spans almost 50 communities, and a population of more than 27,000.

Experts of the ministry and the Sanitary Control Agency are currently testing snow samples to identify the pollutant, and the test results are expected to be released Friday, Beltsov said.

A panel of ministry officials have gathered for an emergency session to discuss measures to remove the potentially hazardous matter, he said.
The latest article posted definitely makes it sound like there could be some major contaminents in the air that may have fallen with the snow. As Jeff said above, mainly the colored snows came from different sediments that were blown from upstream quite a ways. Somebody be sure to post the results of those tests when they are posted online, could have some good information.
Late breaking news

Russian government says it is not toxic:

NOVOSIBIRSK, February 2 (RIA Novosti) - The yellow-orange snow that fell in a West Siberian region Wednesday contains no toxic substances, experts said Friday.

"Experts have established that the substances in the snow are not toxic, but the iron content in the snow samples was four times above the norm," the press service of the local emergencies situations department said.

A public warning was issued in West Siberia's Omsk Region Thursday after polluted snow, yellowed and oil-stained, fell over an area of about 1,500 square kilometers (1,000 square miles), affecting some 49 communities with a population of at least 27,000.

Local residents have been warned against melting the snow for water and stepping on it wherever possible, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

Experts said it was too early to talk about the cause of the phenomena.

"Snow samples have been sent for further tests in labs in Moscow and Krasnoyarsk, and we have also sent an inquiry to Kazakhstan about the possibility of industrial pollution," an emergency service official said. Kazakhstan is located southwest of the Omsk Region.

More details on this event from another Russian site:

We blogged about this event in our website and one user from the public offered an interesting hypothesis: two volcanoes went active in the region. See the report from few days ago published by the Russian news agency Itar-Tass;

PETROPAVLOVSK-KAMCHATSKY, January 30 (Itar-Tass) - A plume of ash from the eruption of the Shiveluch volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula has stretched for 210 kilometres southwest of the giant mount, the Kamchatka branch of the Geophysical Service of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

Shiveluch became active on December 5, 2006 after a relatively calm period since autumn 2005 and this eruption is continuing now. The seismic activity level on the volcano is above the background level. Thermal anomaly has been registered there with temperatures 51.3 degrees Celsius above zero with air temperatures 20 degrees Celsius below zero around.

Experts have been permanently monitoring Shiveluch. An expedition of the Kamchatka Volcanology Institute working in the area of the volcano are collecting samples of ash spewed by the giant in order to assess the eruption progress.

Shiveluch is one of 28 active volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula. This volcano is regarded as one of the most active on Kamchatka. Its height is 3,283 metres above sea level. The volcano eruptions are explosive, which makes it difficult to forecast them.

The Volcano eruptions in 1864 and 1964 were classified by scientists as catastrophic. The nearest settlement Klyuchi is located at a distance of some 50 kilometres from Shiveluch.

Specialists have said that the volcano currently presents no danger to settlements located nearby.

I went to Google to check for a map of the region where the eruptions are under way:


What do you think ?

If there happens to be a steel mill somewhere around this area could be the cause of this orange snow. They are reporting iron as the cause of this happening. In the U.S. We are regulated to capture this dust by means of filtration thru a bag house. Here it is considered a hazardus wast " K-061 Dust" containing abour 90 to 95 percent iron oxide, the rest is zink lime and other materials. A mill without a bag house can disperse huge amounts of this dust into the atmosphire.
I blame global warming.

That does seem to be the trend as of late, doesn't it?:rolleyes:

My gut points me to a steel mill or some other industrial cause.

I don't see how the volcanic emissions nearly a continent away would be causing the orange snow. Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Russia experience prevailing westerlies in the upper levels? If it's due to the volcanoes, it would have dropped orange snow worldwide, including the United States.

This would have been really funny if it had been yellow snow. A public warning being released telling people to avoid yellow snow....

I know, that was lame. But you thought it was funny. Admit it.