Dust Invasion

Last spring I wrote a post about the snowpack dust pollution that is becoming so common every year in Colorado. As far as I can tell, it’s getting worse and worse. In the last few weeks, we’ve had a good set of storms coming through, bringing much welcome snow to the mountains. Unfortunately, along with the snow has come wave after wave of dust.

Dust clouds

Today I noticed an eerie orangish glow from outside, and looking out the window I saw what could easily be mistaken for wildfire smoke. Brown dust-filled clouds are currently streaming in over the mountains. I have never seen anything like this before. It is utterly disgusting. The photo above was taken around 4pm today; the brown color is the color of the clouds – not sunset, not smoke, just clouds full of dirt.

Yet again we can kiss goodbye any chance of a prolonged spring skiing season, as the dust will surely wreak havoc on the late-season sun-baked snowpack.

Dust Clouds over the mountains

Dust from the sky
The Dust. Sounds like a bad horror plot.

13 thoughts on “Dust Invasion

  1. Looking out the window in Aspen right now. Same deal. So bizarre. And sad. At least its snowing but the snow is coming down brown.

  2. Jack,

    This is certainly interesting. Would you say that the seasons have become windier over the last couple years? I know that is not scientific at all, but that is what I have noticed in the five years I have been here in Colorado Springs. Also, I wonder if there is ANY kind of benefit to this dust covering. We obviously know the cons.

  3. Jack,

    as I listened to the forecast last night (unaware of this post) for 10-20″ of new snow, I thought of you because of your recent posts on skiing. Well, I’m assuming you will be burying that dirty stuff under new powder 🙂 All’s well that ends well!

  4. Justin – It’s too hard to comment about these long-term weather trends. I would guess though that it hasn’t gotten winder, but that it has probably gotten dustier. I’ve been in Colorado for about 12 years now, and have been hiking around in the mountains in the springtime for much of that time. The brown-snowpack-dust-problem seems to me to have been worse in the last couple seasons. Perhaps it’s just the luck of the draw with the wind and dust each year…

    I’m no scientist, but perhaps one benefit is extra minerals being deposited in the mountain soils??? But I’d imagine that the negative effects far outweigh any positives.

    Rick – Unfortunately we ended up only getting about 5 inches of snow, and more unfortunately, all is not well that does not end well… the dust will remain in the snowpack, and once the snow starts melting in the next few months, the dust will become exposed and will drastically accelerate the melting.

  5. Feaking SNIRT storms! I wonder if NCAR in Boulder would have an explanantion – it has to be climate change related. Sad, very sad. I guess you’ll be headed to Canyonlands for mud season…….or SNIRT season.

  6. Hi!
    Had it occured to you that this dust may have a simple explanation this time around? over the last copple of weeks there has been a series of volcanic eruptions in Alaska (Mt. Redoubt). The genrual increse of dust over the years may be a trend but I think this one is probably volcanicly linked…. yes it will increse the melting but the dust in the atmosphere will probably have a minor cooling effect on the globe (the dust in the atmosphere tends to reflect more light from the atmosphere) so there may be good bits and bad bits!

  7. Hi Mark – Interesting idea, but this dust was definitely not a result of the coincidental volcanic eruptions in Alaska. First of all, this was a true dust storm – massive amounts of dust blowing from the deserts of Arizona and the Southwest. The sheer amount of low-level dust and dirt could not have come all the way from Alaska, especially considering that the winds were blowing from the Southwest during the storm, not from the north.

  8. Hi Point taken about he local dust in this case…. But the distance and the low level wind need not be a problem it all depends on the high level atmospheric winds… any way now I think of it though the pic you showed gave the more of a redish yellow tint and volcanic ash is more normaly gray!

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