What’s with the brown snow?
April 7, 2009
The rust-tinged snow scattered around the Colorado mountains this past weekend had nothing to do with a volcano in Alaska, according to the National Weather Service.
The state’s ski slopes were covered with dirty-looking snow on Saturday. And Chris Cuoco, a forecaster with the weather service in Grand Junction, said the rumors that the snow had ash from Southern Alaska’s Mount Redoubt ” which has erupted several times recently ” in it are false.
“We heard that a lot, It’s definitely not,” Cuoco said. “That volcano didn’t produce anywhere near the ash necessary.”
Mount Redoubt is 100 miles southwest of Anchorage and tends to erupt every decade or so, belching ash for months. Geologists have recorded at least 19 eruptions since March 22, including one on Saturday.
But the weekend storm that hit the valley picked up dust from Arizona, Utah and western Colorado, giving it a rust color, Cuoco said.
“A lot of dirt and dust was carried into the atmosphere and suspended in it,” Cuoco said. “The snow and rain washed out a good portion of it out and you end up with pink snow falling.”
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A similar storm hit the high country at the end of March.
“There was a decent content of red dust down by the Four Corners,” he said.
It’s not unusual for a dirt-filled storm to hit the valley this time of year, Cuoco said.
“In the spring and fall the jet stream is directly of over us and the storms that move through usually have a lot of wind,” he said. “It sets up just right, with the very strong winds and dry conditions ahead of (the storm).”
It is possible for volcanic ash from west of the state to make its way to Colorado, but the eruption would have to be a lot bigger and the winds would have to be just right, Cuoco said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.