DUST ON SNOW: The effects of dust on Colorado's snowpack and runoffA spring phenomenon we don't often hear talked about amidst corn cycles and alpine starts is the dust-on-snow event. In places like Colorado for instance, storms carrying fine particles of dust from the Southwest travel across country to settle on top of its spring snowpack. This warms up the snowpack and impacts the melt rate and runoff. Down the line, the rapid melts create unpredictable stream flows, expose plants to sun earlier in the season and change water levels in streams being used for recreation.
Below is a photo of a basic experiment done on a dust-covered snowpack to provide a visual for the speed at which the dark and dusty snow melts relative to a clean patch of snow. (NOAA)
It's not only Colorado dealing with this specific phenomenon, as Utah also boasts a huge dust fetch within the miles of exposed toxic soil surrounding Salt Lake. As storms brew above the lake surface sending pow to the Wasatch in the winter, it may be these same weather systems collecting its dust and coating the mountains with it in the spring. Pretty crazy.
Check out this article on dust-on-snow events for a lengthier read.