Increasing Dust Accelerates Mountain Snowmelt
Dust in the wind is rewriting the cycle of life in the mountains. Throughout memory the warmth of spring has begun the mountain snowmelt, bringing life-giving water to greening plants so they can blossom and renew their species.
But now, scientists say, the timing is being thrown off by desert dust stirred as global warming dries larger areas and human activity increases in those regions.
This dust darkens the surface of winter snows, warming it by absorbing sunlight that the white surface would have reflected. That causes the snow to melt earlier than in the past, running off before the air has warmed enough to spur plant growth, researchers report in Tuesday's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It is striking how different the landscape looks as result of this desert-mountain interaction," Chris Landry, director of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies in Silverton, Colo. and a co-author of the report, said in a statement.
Article continues: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/06/29/mountain-snow-melt.html