Dust in the wind makes snow brown
br>SUMMIT COUNTY – Snow, especially newly fallen snow, is supposed to be white, right? After all, a big dump often inspires the poetically inclined to wax lyrical about the pure, virginal qualities of fresh fluff.
But that can all change if a storm is preceded by a winds that deliver dust from drier climes. Such was the case Wednesday night, when strong south winds picked up fine dust particles in northern Arizona and dropped them all across the state of Colorado.In some spots Thursday morning, the snow looked like it was tinted chocolate-brown, prompting calls from concerned area residents.”It’s pretty much statewide,” said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “We’ve had reports from the San Juans, Winter Park … all over.”
Northern Arizona is exceptionally dry and, therefore, dusty, Greene said.There are several scientists in Colorado who study what happens when dust is sprinkled on top of snow. They are trying to determine, among other things, whether growing deserts elsewhere in the world are adding more dust to mountain snow, whether that causes the snow to melt more quickly, and whether that has an effect on water supplies. It’s not unusual to see plumes of reddish dust from the desert Southwest drop on the Rocky Mountains in the spring, said Greene, who has tracked dust plumes from deserts in Asia as they move across the Pacific Ocean and over North America.