WEATHER

Great Salt Lake dust could be toxic, bad for snow season

Oct 25, 2021, 8:19 AM
File photo...
File photo

SALT LAKE CITY — The dwindling Great Salt Lake could create a number of problems for Utahns down the road. It is already creating more dust in the air, that dust might disrupt the snow season, and there might be toxic particles in the dust. 

Great Salt Lake dust 

With the Great Salt Lake at its lowest levels on record, Utahns might have noticed extra dust flying around in the air

University of Utah Associate Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Dr. Kevin Perry, says the exposed lake bed is a large contributor to that dust. 

“There’s now more than 800 miles of lake bed that’s exposed,” says Perry. 

He says roughly 10% of the area once underwater is now contributing to the dust problem, but it will only get worse as the lake remains low. 

Read more: A new low for the southern edge of Utah’s Great Salt Lake

Arsenic

In addition to the reduced air quality caused by the dust, Dr. Perry says his research has uncovered something even more troubling. 

“Relatively high concentrations of arsenic in the soil that has now been exposed by the receding lake,” Perry says.

He says low or moderate arsenic exposure is not the biggest cause for concern, but prolonged exposure over a period of years or decades is a reason to worry. 

“The concentrations in the dust are high enough that if people were exposed to this for a long period of time, over 10 or 20 years, that could actually lead to an increase in the rates of lung cancer,” explains Perry. 

However, the doctor does not want to be an alarmist. He says studies are being conducted to determine how much of the potentially toxic dust we are coming into contact with. 

Read more: Low lake levels threaten the food chain in the Great Salt Lake

Snow 

The dust also has the potential to alter the snow season. 

According to Dr. Perry, the dust settled on the snow changes its reflectivity. The dust effectively makes the snow darker. 

He says, “When you make snow darker, it actually melts faster.” 

Faster melting snow can lead to problems later in the season for the water runoff and storage. The shrinking lake could eventually lead to reduced lake effect snow earlier in the season. 

Read more: Wildlife, air quality at risk as Great Salt Lake nears low

Ultimately, Dr. Perry says Utahns need to start caring more about the Great Salt Lake and stop seeing it as smelly, full of bugs, and a waste of water due to the salt. 

The best solution to the problem, Perry says, is to divert more water to the lake. Rio Tinto Kennecott and the Central Utah Water Conservancy District recently announced a large donation of water rights for the benefit of the lake over the next decade. It won’t fill the lake entirely, but it will certainly help. 

We want to hear from you.

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

Today’s Top Stories

Weather

Schools in the Cache County School District are on a 2-hour delayed start on Tuesday, Jan. 31, due ...
Devin Oldroyd

Freezing weather causes delayed start for Cache County School District schools

Schools in the Cache County School District are on a 2-hour delayed start on Tuesday, Jan. 31, due to weather conditions.
21 hours ago
It's so cold today (Jan. 30) that plumbers are expecting calls anytime from customers needing servi...
Curt Gresseth

When it’s this cold, keep your pipes from freezing. Here’s how.

It's so cold outside today that a plumber has joined the show to share tips on keeping your pipes inside and outside your home from freezing.
21 hours ago
wildlife...
Hugo Rikard-Bell

Why is there an increase of wildlife in SLC neighborhoods?

If you've seen an increase of wildlife in your neighborhoods, you're not the only one. Weather patterns are putting animals on the move.
21 hours ago
A cold snap brings sub-freezing temps to northern Utah. (KSL-TV)...
Randall Jepson

Frigid temperatures delaying some school start times

A frigid cold snap is causing in some schools in northern Utah to delay their start times. Utah State will also have a delayed start.
21 hours ago
utah snow days...
Devin Oldroyd

Weather causing delayed starts for several schools across Utah

Due to weather, many schools across the state are on two-hour delayed starts Monday, Jan. 30.
2 days ago
Temperatures dropping weather worsens...
Allison Chinchar, CNN Meteorologist

‘Dangerous’ arctic air returns this weekend after a month-long hiatus

What has been a mild start to 2023 will come to a halt this weekend as winter makes a roaring comeback across the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Great Salt Lake dust could be toxic, bad for snow season