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!
Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents
12.12.2017 | Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
How do megacities impact coastal seas? Searching for evidence in Chinese marginal seas
11.12.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences
12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
12.12.2017 | Life Sciences