Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Southwest dust speeding up Rockies snowmelt by a month

The LA Times ran a story over the weekend about the increased dust storms in the West dumping more dust on the Rockies, making them darker and speeding up the spring snowmelt by as much as 35 days. [right, satellite image of dust plume off the Willcox playa, April 2004. Credit, NOAA Photo Library]

The story reports that:
Twelve dust storms barreled into the southern Rockies from the deserts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico so far this year. In contrast, four storms hit the mountains all year long in 2003. Eight occurred in each of the last three years."

The amounts of wind-blown dust in the West peaked in the 1920s, reaching seven times the historic norm. Scientists think the level of dust dropped after Congress sharply limited cattle grazing in 1934, near the height of the Dust Bowl.

Today, levels are five times the historic norm.

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