Utah’s Mountain Snow Is Melting Faster Due To Dust

Posted: Dec 22 2018, 8:27am CST | by , in Latest Science News


This story may contain affiliate links.

Utah’s Mountain Snow is Melting Faster Due to Dust
Credit: McKenzie Skiles

Researchers found that dust darkened the snow surface, absorbed more sunlight and accelerated melting.

Utah's Wasatch Mountains are known for having "The Greatest Snow on Earth." These snow-capped mountains of Utah are not simply a majestic landscape but also provide millions of gallons of water to local populations, including Salt Lake City.

Over the past several years, snow on Wasatch Mountains is melting faster than usual. One of the reasons that Utah's Wasatch Mountains are melting rapidly is because of dust particles that are transported from other areas and absorb more sunlight. Airborne particles like dust darken the snow surface and reduce the sheet's albedo, or the extent to which it reflects light, which eventually accelerates melting.

In the latest study, researchers analyzed the impacts of dust deposition near Alta Ski Resort in Utah and measured dust both in the air and in the snow for the first time. Although researchers observed five dust storms in the site during the spring of 2017, they focused only on a single storm event on April 13. That storm deposited half of all dust for the season.

Computer simulations revealed that most of the dust came from Great Salt Lake dry lake bed, which represents a relatively new dust source. Dust from the hot spots of dry lake bed accounted for about 10 percent of deposited dust. Researchers also found that the dust from the storm significantly contributed to darkening of the ice and accelerated ice melt by 25 percent.

The finding is important for water managers in the state and can influence researchers’ understanding of how freshwater resources, in the form of snow and ice, will respond to rising temperatures in the future.

"What's important about the Great Salt Lake is that there are no water rights, no policy to maintain lake levels. As the lake declines, dust events are projected to become more frequent. Anything that impacts snowmelt could have economic and hydrologic consequences. And now one of the dust source regions is right next door,” said lead author of the study McKenzie Skiles from University of Utah

"In most people's minds, dust is a natural aerosol. But the magnitude and frequency of airborne dust is impacted by human activity, altering landscapes makes dust more likely to get picked up by wind. We know that since settlement of the West, the amount of dust in the air has increased. And at the same time, due to upstream water withdrawals, lake levels are also declining, exposing even more dust."

This story may contain affiliate links.


Find rare products online! Get the free Tracker App now.

Download the free Tracker app now to get in-stock alerts on Pomsies, Oculus Go, SNES Classic and more.

Latest News


The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




comments powered by Disqus