“Dust pulls more solar energy into the snowpack, which is essentially a reservoir of water for managers across the West. In dusty years, snow melts earlier. The rate of runoff can increase substantially compared to low dust-on-snow years.”
Have you ever heard of the Colorado Dust on Snow Survey Team aka CODOS? Me neither but I found this little video by Colorado Public Radio about Jeff Derry’s work up on Berthoud Pass fascinating and I’m sure all you snow dorks will as well.
Jeff is tracking the amount of dust deposited on snow across the state at 11 high country sites. Their data can help predict spring melts and is important for scientists across the West especially as we enter into an era where water supplies may tighten.
Here’s what Jeff Deems at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s National Snow and Ice Data Center has to say on the subject.
“In an extreme dust year, we can see the snowpack disappear on the order of 2 months early. Demand is going up and it looks like supply is going down for a number of reasons. We need to keep the snow on the mountain for as long as possible to allow that water to be available for use in the dry summer months. If it melts off [too early] then all we have are our surface reservoirs which don’t store that much [compared to the volume of water in the snowpack].”
…here’s a bit more on The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies (CSAS) & Colorado Dust-on-Snow Program (CODOS):
The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies (CSAS) is home to “CODOS”, the Colorado Dust-on-Snow program, an applied science effort on behalf of Colorado and regional water management agencies. CSAS operates the Senator Beck Basin study area at Red Mountain Pass as the primary sentry site for the CODOS program. With direct funding from stakeholders, CSAS monitors the presence/absence of dust layers at 11 mountain pass locations throughout Colorado. Using those observations, data from nearby Snotel sites, and weather forecasts, the CODOS program issues a series of “Update” analyses of how dust-on-snow is likely to influence snowmelt timing and rates during the runoff season.