WEATHER

Dirty snow could impact spring snowmelt

Feb 8, 2021, 11:58 AM

dirty snow...

Dirty snow in the La Sal mountains (Deseret News)

(Deseret News)

WASATCH VALLEY, Utah– The ugly brown snow that fell over much of Utah last week got everybody’s cars dirty. But it can also have an impact on spring runoff from the Wasatch Mountains. 

McKenzie Skiles, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Utah studies the effects of windblown dust and air pollution on winter snowfall. Dust and soot make the snow darker, so it absorbs more sunlight and melts faster, she explained.

Skiles says windblown dust events tend to happen later in the year, and it’s unusual to have one so early. The dust comes from Western landscapes disturbed by human activity such as grazing and mining and also from the dry shoreline of the Great Salt Lake.

Utah’s polluted urban air also includes black soot that colors the snow, but Skiles noted it’s much less significant than the windblown dust is in affecting spring runoff.

While it’s likely some of last week’s dusty snow will be covered by white snow later in the winter, Skiles says the brown layer can still have an effect. “Later in the season, it will actually re-emerge. That dust doesn’t get carried away in the meltwater as the snow starts to melt,” she said regarding the dirty snow. 

Hydrologists say much of Utah’s spring runoff this year could soak into the soil rather than filling the state’s reservoirs because the past year has been so dry.

Related: Dry weather impacting snowpack in Utah, meteorologists say

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Weather

Fallen tree branches caused by strong winds in Orem are pictured on Monday. A cold front is causing...

Carter Williams, KSL.COM

Rare June freeze warning issued for parts of Utah; wind tied to some of 6,500 outages

Summer might start this week, but a low-pressure system arriving in Utah is forecast to make some parts of the state feel quite wintry.

2 days ago

High wind speeds in Utah County caused property damage on Monday, June 17, 2024....

Emma Keddington

Portions of Utah placed on high wind alert

The Salt Lake National Weather Service warned Utahns of high wind levels Monday evening, primarily affecting those in Utah Valley.

2 days ago

Temperatures in Salt Lake City are only expected to reach 77 degrees on Monday. However, winds and ...

Adam Small

Temperatures expected to cool down, while winds and wildfire danger rise

Temperatures in Salt Lake City are only expected to reach 77 degrees on Monday. However, winds and wildfire danger are on the rise.

3 days ago

The Foundation’s 38-foot RV, customized with two private exam rooms, will travel around the count...

CARLYSLE PRICE, KSL TV

Free skin cancer screening program visits Park City

Local dermatologists will provide free full-body skin cancer screenings in Park City in an RV meant just to check patients.

5 days ago

two people sit in the summer heat...

Adam Small

Salt Lake registers hottest daily overnight low temperature Friday

Salt Lake City registered its hottest overnight low temperature ever recorded on Friday, June 14.

6 days ago

Salt lake city hit a record number of 100 degree days and the state is close to the all-time highes...

Simone Seikaly

Salt Lake City hit 100 degrees Thursday, first time in 2024

Portions of southern Utah were under a Red Flag Warning through 9 p.m. Thursday night.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...

Comcast

Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Dirty snow could impact spring snowmelt