It’s been a bit since a macro-view news update beyond the Tetons’ bighorn sheep/backcountry skier issue. Since I’m not in Colorado, I’m still clinging to the San Juan Snowcast feed for some connection to places I’m not. Chris Dickson has been posting some information about the fast rate of snowmelt in his home hills, “the Juans,” which got me thinking a bit of a similar situation here in Oregon last spring. May skiing really wasn’t. And part of the reason for that bummer was high winds much of the latter part of the winter season, which transported mega amounts of sand/dust particles and particulate onto the snowpack. The high pressure and warm sunny days didn’t help either.
That leads to a handy word I had to refamiliarize myself with, albedo. Albedo is the ability of snow to reflect sunlight. We want the snow to reflect sunlight, or more accurately, its energy, back into the atmosphere when considering the longevity of the snowpack. So a high albedo is desirable. This is news since the snow in parts of Colorado has low albedo, meaning the snowpack absorbs more solar radiation rather than reflecting it.
If this is all new, here’s a dust-on-snow primer before digging in.
To read the full article in the NYT, click here.
As expected (which is a good thing), Colorado has CODOS, or the Colorado Dust-On-Snow Program. This link at CODOS presents dust event data in various visual forms.
In a May 6 post titled, “Buckle Up,” CODOS delivered bad news for corn snow seekers in Southern Colorado, particularly Silverton. According to CODOS, major dust events occurred in the region on May and May 2. “Now, all dust layers except the first two events of the season (D1 and D2) occupy the to ~5″ of the snowpack,” claims the post. “We have severe dust conditions. Albedo at Swamp Angel (11,060′) hit 38% today. Albedo of dry sand is 38-44%! Senator Beck Station (12,200′) hit an albedo of 49%! See data here.”
It’s worth reading the key sentence again: “Albedo at Swamp Angel (11,060′) hit 38% today. Albedo of dry sand is 38-44%! Senator Beck Station (12,200′) hit an albedo of 49%!”
That is astounding. I had forgotten the word albedo…it is, for the remainder of this Friday, my word of the day.
Thanks to the people at places like COROS for tracking dust on snow events and informing the public.
Jason Albert comes to WildSnow from Bend, Oregon. After growing up on the East Coast, he migrated from Montana to Colorado and settled in Oregon. Simple pleasures are quiet and long days touring. His gray hair might stem from his first Grand Traverse in 2000 when rented leather boots and 210cm skis were not the speed weapons he had hoped for. Jason survived the transition from free-heel kool-aid drinker to faster and lighter (think AT), and safer, are better.