Durango Telegraph - Snow scientists converge on Silverton
Snow scientists converge on Silverton

Leading scientists from China, Japan and the United States are in Silverton this week to discuss the effects of dust and soot on snowpack. The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies is hosting the “first of its kind” Impurities in Snow and Ice Workshop with support from the National Science Foundation. Recent research has revealed that soot from global industrial emissions deposited in the Arctic has had significant impacts on observed signs of global warming. In fact, a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that May 2010 was the warmest on record, which dates back to the 1880s. Likewise, widespread land use change in the world’s desert regions has resulted in increases in dust emissions, which is causing

mid-latitude mountain snow to melt as much as one month earlier than average.

The Silverton gathering is addressing the need for better monitoring, modeling and reconstructions of the effects of dust and soot in snow and ice cover worldwide.

“There are not that many scientists who study this,” said Kim Buck of CSAS. “So basically, we’re getting together to and looking at standardization of methods, analysis and processes and how to make them better. We want to make sure we’re comparing apples to apples.”

The 19 participating scientists, led by Thomas Painter of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will present research to their colleagues from the Tibetan Plateau, the Himalaya, Greenland and other parts of the Arctic, as well

as the Sierra-Nevada and Colorado Rockies. They plan to establish an international “ISI” working group, leading to common monitoring protocols and an integrated approach to understanding the effects of pollution in mountain and snow ecosystems.

“What’s happening here is happening all over the world. All these areas depend on water supply from seasonal snowpack,” said Buck. “We’re hoping to work together so each group isn’t reinventing the wheel.”

The Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies is a nonprofit organization that investigates snow systems behaviors and roles, and offers resources for field-based research and education.

– Missy Votel

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