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Old 04-14-2010   #1
 
Meng's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 781
Dust on Snow: a good summary

From The Aspen Times:


That dust on the snow around Aspen is bad, researchers say

Photo: http://www.aspentimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=AT&Date=20100413&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=10 0419966&Ref=AR&MaxW=550&title=1

ASPEN — The red dust blanketing area mountains and virtually every surface in Aspen is a result of oil and gas development and off-road vehicle activity in southeastern Utah, according to David Garbett, staff attorney with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

He informed the Aspen City Council on Monday of the effects the dust has on the community.

The snow stained by dust melts faster because it absorbs more solar energy, which affects the snowpack in Aspen and surrounding areas.

Garbett said that in 2005 and 2006, dusty snow melted 18 to 35 days earlier in Colorado's San Juan Mountains. Last year, dust-covered snow melted 48 days earlier in the same area, he added.

“Dustier snow has a larger impact than temperatures,” he said of the snowpack.

Beyond an expedited snowpack and quicker spring runoff, dust-covered snow affects Aspen's water supply, officials said.

The city's water department has to spend more money in increased treatment chemicals to remove the dust, which resists coagulation. It makes its way through the city's filters and is difficult to remove, according to city officials.

“Water treatment plants in Colorado are experiencing this phenomena throughout areas affected by these storms,” wrote Chuck Bailey, the city's water treatment plant supervisor, in an e-mail regarding the issue. “It is usually temporary during spring/summer runoff, but still a new challenge to us.”

Destabilization of the soil on the Colorado Plateau in Utah is the primary cause of the local dust storms, contrary to other reports that it's from rockslides in Mexico or weather events as far away as Mongolia, Garbett said.

Garbett and his colleague, Terri Martin, urged the council to support America's Red Rock Wilderness Act, introduced by Colorado Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, which seeks to protect wilderness areas in Utah from off-road use, oil and gas development and other destabilizing activities.

The Bureau of Land Management and the federal government control the wilderness area on the Colorado Plateau, where the dust is believed to be carried to the Roaring Fork Valley via windstorms.

The BLM recently approved 20,000 miles of off-road vehicles routes on the plateau and made 80 percent of its lands in that area available for oil and gas leasing and development, according to the Alliance.

“Sensitive lands in Utah ought to be protected,” Garbett said of the pending wilderness act. “It's the perfect time for the council to weigh in.”

Mayor Mick Ireland said the council will consider it.

“I think it's a good idea,” he said, adding the dust lining the mountains around Ruedi Reservoir provides a spectacular example of the effects of last week's storm.

“It's unbelievable at Ruedi, it's like ‘The Cat in the Hat' ... uniformly pink,” Ireland said. “It's beautiful in a sort of a science fiction way. It's bizarre.”

Another dust storm was expected to hit the Roaring Fork Valley late Monday night and into Tuesday.

A blowing dust advisory for south-central Colorado and portions of western Colorado was issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Monday.

A cold front was expected to move across Utah and Arizona, generating strong south-southwesterly winds with gusts potentially reaching 50 mph.

The strong winds were expected to cause blowing dust in parts of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, which could be transported long distances, causing hazy skies and restricted visibility at times even in areas where the winds are lighter.

The state health department warned that the elderly, the young and those with respiratory problems should avoid prolonged exertion and limit outdoor exposure during dust storms.

csack@aspentimes.com
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Old 04-14-2010   #2
 
Park City, Utah
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I'm calling total BS in the advancement of a political agenda. I just went to wash off the heavy dust on my cars and I am to the west of the area he is saying led to the dust storms!! I'll buy into the idea it might be exacerbated by global warming, but come on man.
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Old 04-14-2010   #3
 
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Not sure what the political agenda is - the article is talking about complex resource management issues and of course, certain recommendations will ensue. Things effect other things and so on. When addressing them, or when scientific/interest group reccomendations become a BS political agenda, the I guess we are resorting to conservative evangelical palinism/creationism.

Really though, all I wanted to let boaters know about here is the tangible and documented early runoff regimes. It could help plan the season better. Also, its good to know what the costs to municipalities are. If actions in one state so dramatically effect another state, the issue needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

Of course, I cant personally defend the science and recommendations in this article, I was just sharing.

PS - If you think the article is total BS, I'd feel free to comment accordingly on the Aspen Times website etc...
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Old 04-14-2010   #4
 
Park City, Utah
Paddling Since: 1985
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Not attacking you

I just found it funny that he was tieing this to use and development in Utah, when I live on the north western edge of that state and we had the same hazy days and dust. His comment that dirty snow melts faster, I buy. His causation of the dust and tieing it to specific development and use issues in southern utah I won't. Might have contributed, but not "the" issue.

Sorry that I didn't specify. Not invested enough to go fight it out with the people in Aspen.
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Old 04-14-2010   #5
 
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Durango, Colorado
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I was just looking at a friend's skiing pix from last weekend up above Animas Forks. The snow looked pretty darned pink. Hope this year's snowpack doesn't melt as fast as last year's. As to SUWA's claims, sounds like a messy blend of fact, fiction and emotion. How about overgrazing on Utah's public lands? I'd say that absolutely factors in... along with climate change, the primary cause.
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Old 04-14-2010   #6
 
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THE CAUSE (and if you make me dig up backing for this I can) is TOPSOIL DISTURBANCE.

Here's how it works:

In native form, the desert dust is held down by plants/roots/brush.

When that is removed from disturbance like overgrazing, oil and gas and ohv's, the dust becomes available for easy transport.

Its then picked up by normal winds and gets deposited on the mountain ranges it hits

Where it comes from CAN vary. However, with soil samples, scientists can pinpoint exact regions.

...or something like that

Peace all - I'm seriously not trying to push an agenda or start any shit here.

PS - this is what the west elks near crested butte look like

PPS - Canada - sorry to jump the gun and getting defensive. I hear ya....

PPPS - I do recant somewhat. Canada. You are right - 'they' do seem to be using the dust as an agenda item for the wilderness area they are pushing.


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Old 04-14-2010   #7
 
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Durango, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Meng View Post
THE CAUSE (and if you make me dig up backing for this I can) is TOPSOIL DISTURBANCE.
Kinda hard to argue that!
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Old 04-14-2010   #8
I'm wrong 50% of the time
 
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RFV, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1977
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I'll buy that "most" of the red dust that is deposited in Colorado via storm activity is related to top soil disruption in "other" western states. To be blunt, I do not buy the theory that the major contributors to this are oil and gas and OHV use. I will admit that they contribute. That being said, the is credible evidence that this latest pastern of dust / storm activity is from the earthquake recently in Mexico. It injected tons of brown dirt into the jetstream that was then deposited here. The Elk range is covered in mostly brown dirt, not red as would be associated with western Utah.

As to the political agenda of the Aspen Times, they are a contributing supporter of the Wilderness Workshop (Hidden Gems). They are located in a town that is relatively biased to OHV and the Oil and Gas industry. Looking at these facts, it is no wonder that they attribute "all" dust activity on these activities. I don't buy half of what Aspen Times and their sister papers print any more. This is true of all papers, they have a bias and they stick to it.

Anyway that it happens, the dust is no good for our run off patterns and will contribute to a faster melt.

Blast me if you want.
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Old 04-14-2010   #9
 
Palisade, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 282
I'm all for SUWA, but having a lawyer blame OHVs for dust in *Aspen* was probably not their best move...sure the dust will accellerate snowmelt which is not really a good thing, but isn't it a little more complicated than that?

I personally think the wind had a lot to do with it...
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Old 04-14-2010   #10
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brendodendo View Post
As to the political agenda of the Aspen Times, they are a contributing supporter of the Wilderness Workshop (Hidden Gems). They are located in a town that is relatively biased to OHV and the Oil and Gas industry. Looking at these facts, it is no wonder that they attribute "all" dust activity on these activities.
I think you provide a good read into the local politics behind the article's tone. And you are right - 'all' dust activity can not be credibly attributed to only certain factors, disturbances or areas.
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