Winter Storm Xylia dropped nearly three feet of snow in Colorado over the weekend, but some of the powder had a brown hue instead of being completely white.
The National Weather Service (NWS) revealed the discolored snow is actually dust particles that traveled up from Mexico, which is currently experiencing a severe-to-extreme drought.
Strong winds travelling 60 to 70 miles per hour were blowing ahead of the storm that scooped up a massive amount of dust from Mexico’s extremely dry landscape and intertwined with the winter storm in the US.
Tom Gill, a professor and scientist at the University of Texas at El Paso, said on Twitter: ‘This dust actually originated in an agricultural part of central Mexico with distinct orange-red-brown soils, a very long distance south of the border.’
‘Myself & other Dust researchers were tracking it Friday, saw it heading towards Colorado, and wondered if it’d get in the snow!’
Winter Storm Xylia dropped nearly three feet of snow in Colorado over the weekend, but some of the powder had a brown hue instead of completely white
The NWS first announced the brown snow on Twitter in a post that reads: ‘The dust that was lofted this afternoon from the playas in Mexico … has now been transported all the way into Colorado!’
The agency has been tracking the dust moving north via satellites, which watched the dust intertwine with Winter Storm Xylia.
Sharon Sullivan, meteorologist at the NWS in Albuquerque, told CNN that this has occurred in the past, but traveling up to Boulder, Colorado is rarely observed.
However, Mother Nature setup the stage for this event with winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour at times when a snow storm was heading towards Colorado.
The National Weather Service (NWS) revealed the discolored snow is actually dust particles that traveled up from Mexico, which is currently experiencing a sever-to-extreme drought
‘Some of these particles are very fine, so it only takes about 15-20 mph to have them lifted off the ground,’ Sullivan told CNN.
Martín Jiménez, a member of the Mexican Hydraulic Association, said in an interview with Mexico News Daily, ‘Mexico has endured droughts for centuries but their severity and the area of territory they affect have increased over the past decade.’
And as global warming becomes more intense, so will severe droughts in many parts of the world, said Jonathan Overpeck, environmental and climate scientist at the University of Michigan.
Colorado nearly made it through the winter without a major snow storm, but Sunday brought one of the top ten snowfall accumulations in some cities.
Mother Nature setup the stage for this event with winds blowing up to 70 miles per hour at times when a snow storm was heading towards Colorado. Some areas of Colorado were hit with nearly three feet of snow
This phenomenon has occurred in the past, but meteorologists say it is very rare for dust particles to travel as far as Colorado
The National Weather Service shared images on Twitter of melting snow with dust particles floating around in the liquid
This was Denver’s fourth largest storm on record with more than 27 inches of powder blanketing the major city.
In Aspen Park, 25 miles south west of Denver, 32.9 inches of snow was recorded by Sunday night – almost three feet.
In eastern Colorado, wind gusts of 45 miles per hour prompted the National Weather Service on Sunday afternoon to issue a blizzard warning for about a 90-mile stretch of the state’s urban corridor along Interstate 25, from Fort Collins to Castle Rock.
Colorado nearly made it through the winter without a major snow storm, but Sunday brought one of the top ten snowfall accumulations in some cities
The warning extended to the Denver metropolitan area, where about a foot of snow had fallen by midday, with another eight inches likely before the storm wanes by nightfall, said Frank Cooper, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Boulder, Colorado.
In Aurora, 10 miles east of downtown Denver, 48 people were stranded in their vehicles on Sunday. Even the first responders became stuck, Aurora police department said.