A menace lurks beneath the snow high up in the southern Rocky Mountains: Dust. Lots and lots of dust.
This dust speeds up spring water runoff, causing intense melting and streams to peak weeks earlier than usual — which wrecks havoc throughout the alpine ecosystem. Water managers and fire forecasters alike are sounding the alarm about the consequences of less water flowing in streams and reservoirs.
At first glance the dust seems innocuous. How could something so simple undermine water infrastructure, stress wildlife and lengthen the wildfire season all at once?