Has the Nile River turned red?

By November 21, 2023 Environment

We’ve seen videos from TikTok and other social media platforms depicting a body of water (claimed to be the Nile River in Egypt) that has turned red. These videos and images claim that the Nile River is running red – similar to an account from the Old Testament in the Bible, where the river water was turned to blood as a sign from God.The startling imagery has also been linked to a divine message sent in response to the widespread death and conflict occurring around Israel and Palestine, as well as more generally to the arrival of “the end times.”

However, we also noticed that the images and videos vary across posts, with different bodies of water being pictured. The posts also do not include specifics such as dates or exact location and context.

The most widely spread example in the past weeks has been a short video of a completely red body of water. As recently debunked by AP News, it is actually video of a lagoon located in Chile named Laguna Roja. When landmarks in the video (such as a mountain) were compared to images of Laguna Roja, it was clear that the body of water is not the Nile River. Further, rather than water recently being turned red, the Laguna Roja has appeared red for centuries likely due to naturally occurring mineral dyes at its bottom.

Some bodies of water can also appear red because of microorganisms called phytoplankton, which contain red pigments that can discolour water under certain conditions. The term “Red tide” is commonly used to describe this phenomenon and has been observed in different locations – from Siberia to the Gulf of Mexico.Many of the images and videos being circulated are therefore misrepresenting existing or past occurrences that can be attributed to natural phenomena.

Another image being used in recent claims seemingly depicts an aerial shot of Nile River with red portions snaking down certain areas. This was quickly debunked as actually being satellite imaging from 2016, with red  being used to visualise and represent areas with live vegetation.

While some have speculated that the Biblical account might have been inspired by a red tide occurring in the Nile River, there have been no recent reports of the river turning red through such natural factors.

None of the videos and images presented alongside the claim are reliable supporting evidence. There is, therefore, no truth to the claim that the Nile River has turned red.

The use of religiously charged claims is noteworthy as emotional or spiritual associations to certain claims can make audiences more inclined to believe or share them. Religion has been used to shape narratives or push misinformation and this claim specifically has been used to suggest that divine punishment or judgement is imminent – either as a result of the Israel-Hamas conflict, or as part of doomsday-related conspiracies.

Therefore, when encountering claims with such charged language and eye-catching imagery, it is even more important to look up sources and further information to prevent widespread misinformation and disinformation taking root.

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