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Colorado: Dust layers a factor in record-early snow melt

Report links wind-blown dust with early runoff

Dust from the desert Southwest is visible on the snow at Loveland Pass, Colorado in this file image from 2010.

NASA Satellite images can trace the dust plumes back to their source.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with above-average temperatures and dry and sunny weather, spring dust storms in March and April likely were a significant factor in this year’s record early snow-melt season, according to the Silverton-based Colorado Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies.

Snow that’s darkened by wind-deposited dust absorbs much more heat and hastens the warming of the snowpack to an isothermal state (32 degrees from top to bottom).

In its year-end report, the center explains that the dust layers continue to absorb and add solar energy to the snowpack long after the original dust layer is deposited.  Continue reading

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Colorado: Dust-on-snow research faces funding crunch

San Juan-based research yielding valuable data on snowmelt and runoff

A thick layer of dust is visible on the snow at Loveland Pass, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — A critical research program that helps assess the effects of wind-born dust on Colorado’s snowpack and runoff is fighting for financial survival.

To continue operating the Senator Beck Basin long-term monitoring program after this season, the Silverton-based Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies needs to raise a total of $135,000. Private donors have stepped up to the plate with $15,000 so far, while Denver Water has chipped in with $5,000, but the research organization is still a long way from its goal, facing a June 30 funding deadline. Continue reading

Weather: Storm delivers … dust

Coming week looks dry and warm

Most of the moisture in the jet stream is diving south of Colorado.

SUMMIT COUNTY — The latest storm to roll through the Rockies delivered plenty of snow to the San Juans — as promised — but didn’t do a whole lot to boost the dwindling snowpack in the central and northern mountains, where only a few inches were reported.

After cool temps Monday and Tuesday, highs could climb back into the upper 50s by mid week at valley elevations in the high country, with above-normal readings likely through next weekend. Spring has sprung.

Both Telluride and Wolf Creek did well with the southerly flow, picking up about a foot of snow, while Silverton reported 14 inches. Crested Butte and Vail reported 5 inches, with three inches around Aspen.

Perhaps more significantly, the storm brought another significant deposition of desert dust to at least some parts of the high country. According to early reports, dust was reported in the Summit County zone by backcountry observers, said Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Scott Toepfer. Continue reading

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