Quandary: Examining deicers, corrosion and orographic lift | SummitDaily.com

Quandary: Examining deicers, corrosion and orographic lift

Have a question?

Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Questions? email quandary@summitdaily.com

Dear Quandary,

Will the stuff CDOT puts on the roads for ice damage my car?

In short, yes. However, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has recently completed a three-year study to determine exactly how much impact the various anti-icer and deicer liquids have on the environment and on your shiny new car. They learned that it is actually less dangerous than the traditional magnesium chloride compound that is used on roads, and unlike this previous road salt compound, it won’t mess up your paint job or your windshield. So even if the bottom’s falling out, your car can still be pretty. The best, and really the only way, to stave off the corrosion caused by these compounds is to wash your car after winter storms. Not with the hose either — to really get all the grime off of your car a high-powered, professional wash is required.

According to CDOT, since introducing these anti-icer and deicer liquids, they have been able to reduce the use of sand by 50 percent, meaning cleaner air and fewer brown clouds. The brown clouds are actually caused by PM10, a particulate matter that gets into the air. In addition, the highways have been closed for fewer days on average since the introduction of these liquid lifesavers.

All this talk about how great deicers and anti-icers are got this old goat wondering exactly what they are, so I rambled on down and started licking the highway (not a recommended testing method for anyone), and discovered that they are actually liquid salt compounds, meant to either prevent ice in the case of anti-icers, or crush its soul in the case of deicers. Please don’t decorate your margarita rims with these bad boys though, it may not be as harmful to the environment, but it’s not good for either of our bellies, as I sadly learned.

Dear Quandary,

What’s orographic lift?

Orographic lift is what it takes to get this old goat moving every morning. Well, sort of. It actually refers to what happens when air meets a mountain. Just like any of us, the air has to figure out a way past the behemoth landscape change, and the easiest route is actually straight up. This means a few things for people living and playing at the top of the mountain. First, the change in elevation causes the air to cool (the part that gets old goats moving a little quicker). Also, as it rises and cools, the air gains moisture. For all of the ski bums and lifties in Summit, this is cause to rejoice. The configuration of Summit’s mountains means that additional cool temperatures and moisture can stay in the area longer than in places with less mountainous bliss. It also means that the snow falls in larger quantities, equaling more powder days and more reasons to stay and play. This is one reason you often see ski resorts pop up in groupings; the conditions in certain areas are just built for better snowfall and snowpack. As the website for Breckenridge Ski Resort explains, orographic lift is responsible for the 300 inches of snow Breck averages annually.

Other terms that refer to this same weather pattern are upslope flow, topographic uplift and forced land lifting, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Whatever term you use, they all mean we can end up with some strange weather patterns.

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