Led by Tom Painter, the study found seasonal snow coverage in the sub-alpine and alpine areas of the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado disappeared by about 30 days earlier in 2006 because of heavy dust deposition from the Colorado Plateau roughly 200 miles away. The dust, which probably came from northeast Arizona and northwest New Mexico deserts, reduced the snow’s reflectivity, allowing more of the sun’s energy to warm the snow pack and cause it to melt earlier.
“The connection between dust and lower snow reflectance is already established, but the amount of impact measured and modeled in this system stunned us,” said Painter. “The fact that dust can reduce snow cover duration so much – a month earlier -- transforms our understanding of mountain sensitivity to external forcings.”
While just three or four significant dust deposition events occurred annually in the San Juan Mountains between 2003 and 2005, eight occurred in 2006, according to the authors. In 2006, the sub-alpine regions of the San Juans melted out 24 to 35 days earlier than previous, relatively dust-free years, according to ground measurements and computer simulations.
A paper on the subject was published online June 23 in Geophysical Research Letters. Co-authors on the study included CU-Boulder’s Andrew Barrett, Jason Neff, Maureen Cassidy, Corey Lawrence and Lang Farmer, as well as Christopher Landry from the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, Colo., and Kathleen McBride of Northern Arizona University.
The Colorado Plateau is centered in the Four Corners region of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah and covers an area of roughly 130,000 square miles.
Prior to the widespread ecological disturbance of the Western U.S. in the late 1980s, the high mountain snow would have likely lasted several weeks longer in most regions, according to the researchers.
“Recent studies agree that with global warming, the Southwest will be warmer and drier,” said Painter. “Enhanced dust deposition is likely, further shortening snow cover duration. Ultimately, a warming climate and the dust it generates will affect river run-off and soil moisture in the mountains, not only in the Western United States but across many of the world’s mountains.”
Snowmelt provides drinking water to one-sixth of the world’s population and provides important agricultural and recreational resources for the Western United States, said Painter. The progression of climate change may alter the reliability of spring snowmelt, including its quantity, timing and duration, he said.
Stephanie Renfrow | EurekAlert!
Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
Germany counts high-precision manufacturing processes among its advantages as a location. It’s not just the aerospace and automotive industries that require almost waste-free, high-precision manufacturing to provide an efficient way of testing the shape and orientation tolerances of products. Since current inline measurement technology not yet provides the required accuracy, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is collaborating with four renowned industry partners in the INSPIRE project to develop inline sensors with a new accuracy class. Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the project is scheduled to run until the end of 2019.
New Manufacturing Technologies for New Products
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
22.06.2017 | Life Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.06.2017 | Materials Sciences