Global warming first topic for museum lecture series
The “dust events” that deposit desert sand on Grand Mesa and, especially, the San Juan Mountains each spring have become more frequent and intense in the past 10 years — and are getting worse, according to Jim Donovan, director of the Silverton Avalanche School.
That windblown dust is leading to accelerated snowmelt and shorter, more intense peak runoff, such as what happened this year, and could have cascading effects on everything from farm yields to wildflowers. Even the avalanche cycle is being affected, he said.
Some avalanches can “rip snow loose” along the layer of dust in the snowpack, he said. “Spring is normally a safer time to ski, but that has changed quite a bit due to these (springtime) dust events.”
As climate change continues to decrease precipitation in the Southwest, less dust is being tamped down by rain or snow, meaning these dust events could become even worse in the decades to come, Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s discussion of the “dust-on-snow” phenomenon was part of a wide-ranging talk at Dinosaur Journey Museum in Fruita last week.
The talk was the second in a new series of monthly lectures being put on jointly by the Museum of Western Colorado and the John McConnell Math & Science Center this year.
Organizers hope the series is able to both raise funds for the two museums and provide interesting, locally relevant discussions of scientific topics.
“I’d been wanting to do some sort of an adult-focused seminar series for quite some time,” said Teresa Coons, director of the Math & Science Center, which is tailored more toward children and teenagers.
Coons had helped put on a similar seminar series about seven years ago at what was then Mesa State College, and after she left to work at the Math & Science Center, she said, she kept getting calls asking when the series was coming back.
When she and Mike Perry, executive director of the Museum of Western Colorado, began talking about the idea recently, things fell into place.
Officials now have venues secured, with seminars being held on alternating months at the Museum of the West and Dinosaur Journey. The series will run through November.
Thursday’s talk drew fewer people than expected — it coincided with the first ANB Bank Farmers Market, and the 90-degree heat may have melted most curiosity about snow — but Coons hoped that next month’s talk on “the heated discussion of global warming” will pique more summertime interest.
If the series proves a success, it could go a long way toward helping the Math & Science Center run its “exploratorium-type” hands-on museum, after-school programs, summer camps, scholarships, youth groups and work with local schools. The center, housed at New Emerson School on Orchard Mesa, would like to move into a bigger building.
The main goal, though, is to provide an opportunity for people to hear about important scientific issues, she said.