(CNN) –– The blizzard that broke records and paralyzed some areas of the Rocky Mountains brought a rather unusual element: a layer of brown snow that fell in New Mexico and Colorado…. with sand from Mexico.
A tweet from the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Albuquerque, New Mexico, pointed to the phenomenon.
“The sand that rose this afternoon from the beaches of Mexico … was transported all the way to Colorado!” The message read.
“We had a low that was tracked across the state and it was bringing in a lot of gusts of wind from the southwest. You could see the rising sand on the satellite images, “explained Sharon Sullivan, a meteorologist at the NWS in Albuquerque.
The yellow color on the NOAA satellite shows sand that is blown north with the winds. When using a filter layer created by the Colorado State University, it is easier to detect the sand in the images.
In fact, this sand ended up even in snow as far north as Boulder, Colorado, according to the National Weather Service. The agency posted an image of the brown cape that fell outside of its office.
“We don’t see it very often. Especially coming as far north as Boulder, ”Sullivan noted. He added that it is more common for sand to be transported from White Sands National Park, which is in the southern part of the state. That it arrives from Mexico is quite rare, he insisted.
Check it out! We received a few comments that people saw a brownish layer in the snow and we were able to capture a picture of it here at the office. This is actually a layer of dust transported from Mexico! @NWSAlbuquerque pointed it out on satellite last night. #COwx https://t.co/XOTm74f87c pic.twitter.com/c5rdlyMRiR
– NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) March 15, 2021
How did the sand of Mexico get so far?
The weather conditions for this event were perfect. Northern New Mexico and some parts of Colorado have had red flag warnings in effect for the past few days. So the winds had gusts from the southwest at 96 to 112 kilometers per hour on some occasions. Those strong winds helped lift and carry the sand from Mexico.
‘Some of these particles are very fine. So it only takes 15 to 19 miles per hour for them to lift off the ground, “Sullivan said. So in three times the wind gusts, the sand kicked up easily and traveled nearly 1,300 kilometers.
Similar to how the arena of the Sahara travels from Africa, crosses the Atlantic and ends up suspended over the Florida sky, it was how this sand was collected and reached the north.
“The sand particles stick to the snowflake or water and fall with the snowflake to the ground,” Sullivan explained. The result is a layer of fresh snow with a brown hue.
Sullivan said the same conditions Tuesday could lead to more powdery snow. Which, according to her, also reduces the albedo of snow or the power of reflection. And this allows it to melt more quickly and result in a reduced snow cover overall.
It has been a very busy week for that region of the country. The National Weather Service office in Albuquerque had critical fire weather and winter weather advisories. In addition to a tornado watch, at the same time, something that is not unheard of for that region, but nonetheless extreme.
CNN meteorologist Judson Jones contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism