McKenzie Skiles' Research Highlighted by NPR

University of Utah hydrologist McKenzie Skiles recently co-authored a study that examined whether warmer temperatures or dust are greater threats to snowpacks.

"What we found looking at those two in this region, is that it was actually dust that controlled snowmelt timing and magnitude and sort of how fast snow ran out of the mountains, as opposed to temperature," Skiles said. "We didn't see any relationship to temperature at all."

Warming temperatures are more likely to affect and diminish total snow accumulation, causing some snow to come down as rain. But when it comes to runoff, dust is the controlling factor. It's the sun's rays that force snow to melt, not outside air temperature.

While science is beginning to paint a clearer picture of how this phenomenon plays out, Skiles says that there's plenty the field doesn't know about dust.

"We still have some questions on what controls the actual dynamics of the dust events themselves," she said. "We see dust in every year, but there's a high variability between the amount of dust that's deposited each year."

Read the entire article here: www.npr.org/2018/04/22/604580743/the-rocky-mountains-have-a-dust-problem