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Colorado scientists quantify increased dust pollution

Tracking calcium deposits shows big increase in dust deposition in the past couple of decades

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Desert dust taints the snow at Loveland Pass, Colorado, speeding snowmelt and sometimes contributing to avalanche hazards. Bob Berwyn photo.

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NASA satellite images can help track dust storms.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Significant dust storms the past few years have had a big impact on the timing of snowmelt in the Colorado Rockies, but scientists haven’t been able to say for certain if those events are becoming more frequent.

Now, a new study from the University of Colorado Boulder shows that the amount of dust deposition has increased, at least during the 17-year span covered by the researchers, who tracked calcium deposits to reach their conclusions. Calcium dissolved in precipitation has long been measured by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program as a way assess acid rain.

The scientists reviewed calcium deposition data from 175 NADP sites across the United States between 1994 and 2010, measuring increases in calcium deposition increased at 116 locations. The sites with the greatest increases were clustered in the Northwest, the Midwest and the Intermountain West, with Colorado, Wyoming and Utah seeing especially large increases. Continue reading

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Climate: Does atmospheric dust cause warming or cooling?

NASA research adds to understanding of dust events

NASA often captures images of dust storms from orbiting satellites, but one recent study looked at the dust from the ground up, finding that the events can have localized warming effect.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Desert dust storms blowing across the Colorado Rockies from the Southwest have already been implicated as a factor  in earlier snowmelt; now, new research by NASA suggests that airborne dust can have a significant, localized effect on atmpospheric temperatures.

The study was conducted in a semi-arid region between China’s Taklimakan and Gobi deserts, where the NASA team set up a field research site in Zhangye. Using an array of upward-looking instruments for measuring airborne dust particles, they assessed the impact of dust storms from the adjacent deserts. Continue reading

Climate: High latitude dust storms increasing

A NASA satellite image shows dust blowing off the north coast of Iceland.

Study shows more glacial dust as a result of global warming

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Cold-climate, high-latitude dust storms could become more frequent as the world grows warmer, creating yet another complex climate feedback loop.

Research on Iceland led by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science shows that large dust storms is both accelerating glacial melting and contributing important nutrients to the surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. Continue reading

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