Smog In Western U.S. Starts Out As Pollution In Asia, Researchers Say ~NPR

This has been known for a long time.. In the winter of 2002, we (CAIC/CDOT) avalanche forecasters were digging snow pits on Red Mountain Pass and a horizontal dust line found in the pit wall was identified as having come from a Mongolian dust storm days earlier.  A local group of Silverton skiers/partiers and musicians named their group The Mongolian Dust Storm after this event and found fame in San Juan County.


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The U.S. is producing less air pollution, but smog levels are still rising in the western U.S. because of pollutants released in Asian countries that then drift over the Pacific Ocean. Researchers say their findings show the importance of a global approach to preserving air quality.

“Scientists found Asian air pollution contributed as much as 65 percent of an increase in Western ozone in recent years,” NPR’s Rob Schmitz reports from Shanghai. “China and India, where many consumer products are manufactured, are the worst offenders.”

The problem, scientists say, is that Asian countries’ emissions of nitrogen oxides — which sunlight then breaks down in reactions that produce ozone — have tripled since 1990. When those harmful gases circulate to North America, they offset gains in U.S. air quality that have come from cutting nitrogen oxide emissions by 50 percent.

The researchers say that as China continues to cut its nitrogen oxide emissions, “rising global methane and NOx emissions in the tropical countries (e.g., India) in Asia, where O3 [ozone] production is more efficient, may become more important in the coming decades.”

“A global perspective is necessary when designing a strategy to meet US O3 air quality objectives,” the scientists wrote.

The research was published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

The study looked at levels of ground-level ozone (the key component in smog) from 1980 to 2014. To determine U.S. trends, pollution levels in cities, rural areas and national parks were collated. Scientist Meiyun Lin of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration led the work, along with others from her agency and the Environmental Protection Agency.

They concluded that the spike in man-made emissions in Asia “is the major driver” of the rise in ozone levels in the western U.S. for both spring and summer in recent decades. The researchers cited data that ranges from Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California to observations in Denver, Colo., and the eastern U.S.

According to the EPA, high levels of ground-level ozone “can be harmful to people, animals, crops, and other materials.” The agency adds, “Ozone can aggravate asthma, and can inflame and damage cells that line your lungs.”

The study’s authors said their work was funded by NASA grants and also used ozone data that’s freely available online.

~ TIM’S LANE ~ you just knew he was gonna be a legend ~ Rōbert ~ Update with funny email exchange …


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~~~  WATCH TIM’S LANE  ~~~

email from Tim Lane to Mike Friedman and Rōbert this morning, 2/25/16..     Hola …Watched Tim’s Lane today (in Chile)… laughed a lot …don’t think I ever skied that shot …all the best, Tim


email response from Mike Friedman…  There’s a line in the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.


email from Rōbert…   So it goes… “I know it’s true, even if it didn’t happen.”  Mark Twain

Avalanche Zen ~ Tricycle



The Battleship path running near Silverton, Colorado.

Photo credit:  Jonathan Thompson

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Some folks sit on a cushion and count their breaths as though it were a matter of life and death. Others, like 68-year-old Jerry Roberts, a retired avalanche forecaster for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, meditate wholeheartedly on the intricacies of snow.

I do not use that word “meditate” lightly. As a forecaster, Roberts’s job was to rigorously and relentlessly observe the snowpack. That involved studying everything from weather systems swirling in the Pacific to the structure of ice crystals out the back door. His special awareness was then tapped by the Colorado Department of Transportation to help determine when to shut down the mountain roads around Telluride and Durango. Winter in the San Juan Mountains begins in October and ends in June, and the range often receives 300 inches of snow in a single season. It is a notoriously dangerous place.

Currently, Roberts does part-time consulting work with Mountain Weather Masters, an outfit he cofounded. The group’s logo—a sword-wielding samurai backed by a white cloud—reflects his longtime interest in Japanese culture. Roberts’s house in Ridgway, Colorado, is cluttered equally with avalanche maps and anthologies of haiku by Issa, Buson, and Basho. I met him there on a bright winter morning, and we sat by the fireplace, drank coffee, and talked. He showed me homemade chapbooks of his own free-verse haiku, many of which braid the languages of snow science, skiing, and mountain geography with the language of Zen.

Enlightenment? Roberts wouldn’t claim to know much about such an exalted state of being. Self-deprecating and quick to laugh, he jokingly referred to our conversation as “bullshitting.” Nevertheless, I could tell from his warmth and sincerity that talking about snow and poetry was, for him, an immensely valuable pastime. After my second cup of coffee, when I rose to leave, instead of offering a handshake, he smiled and told me, “Keep on enjoying life.”

–Leath Tonino


~ la puerta del misterio ~

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A UPI article

After nearly 15 years of investigation into the disapearance of US goverment material near Silverton Colorado …several of these articles were found in a small mountain comunity in the central Chilian Andes, tacked to the door of a rundown hut. Authorities still remain baffled. President and founder of the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies, Chris Laundry commented, ” We’ve exhausted every lead ..even as far as Gulmorg on the Kashmir-Pakistan border. These signs and their investigation has cost the American taxpayer dearly …which almost brought our project to its knees.” The US embassy in Santiago is looking into this matter and hasn’t ruled out bringing in the FBI.

‘RED MOUNTAIN PASS – CHIEF OURAY HIGHWAY: A History of Forecasting and Mitigation.’—Jerry Roberts—The Avalanche Review

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The Avalanche Review, February & April 2009

It’s anybody’s guess why forecasters do this job. It could be the smell of powder, throwing 50 pound shots from the helicopter, watching hard slab failure release energy over several alpine basins at once, or maybe just the company you keep.

Whatever the reasons, you get hooked on the excitement and the challenges of the job. It requires a lot of field experience (series of non-fatal errors), collection of empirical evidence, listening to your inner voice (intuition), and distilling all of the variables to reduce uncertainties until you can finally make a decision that you can live with. There are many truths to be learned. It’s no big mystery; you pay attention and do your work because you don’t want to be a victim of your own bad planning. It helps to be comfortable in the world of uncertainties.

READ FULL ARTICLE  PART I    PP. 24,25,32…       READ PART II  PP. 30-32

George Gardner Scholarship Fund to sponsor a presentation by Jake Norton

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Jake Norton has a long relationship with the mountains and adventuring. He helped discover the remains of George Mallory on Everest in 1999 and returned to tell more of the Mallory and Irvine story in 2001 and 2002. Norton has made seven expeditions to Everest, climbing it by the Northeast and Southeast Ridges and attempting the West Ridge in 2012. A guide, photographer, videographer and speaker, his life and career are entwined with the high mountains of the world. In recent years, Norton has focused his efforts on the global water and sanitation crises, founding Challenge21 and partnering with nonprofit Water For People. While climbing the 3 highest peaks on each continent and fundraising at the same time, Jake aims to make a tangible difference in the world. Since 2011, he has raised over $325,000 for global water and sanitation programs. Norton, with Pete McBride, traveled the length of the Ganges river in the film Holy (un)Holy River, which is receiving numerous prestigious awards. Jake is also an athlete and photographer for Eddie Bauer and is an active philanthropist. Norton was Director of the American Mountaineering Museum in Golden, CO, serves on the International Advisory Board for The Mountain Institute, and is an Ambassador for the United Nations Mountain Partnership. He has covered assignments for Discovery Channel, PBS/NOVA, BBC, National Geographic, and Forbes. Norton lives in Golden, Colorado, with his wife and two children.


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Comments Due by December 12th! ~ TAKE ACTION

Silverton Guides has requested to exchange and expand their Special Recreation Permit authorizing their guided heli-skiing operations on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. The proposal would exchange their high altitude locations with larger areas frequently used by backcountry day users, posing significant issues that were not adequately (if at all!) addressed by the Environmental Assessment.

We are submitting comments to the BLM and urge the public to as well. See our talking points below and then uses the form to submit your comments. Then pass this on to a friend!

Talking Points

1. Deficient Environmental Assessment (EA): The EA must be revised to include a through analysis of teh 200+ public comments previously submitted and should include numerous alternatives for management direction. Issues the EA failed to analyze include:

User conflict and displacement
Avalanche control and safety issues
Noise impacts
Wildlife issues
Suitability of San Juan Moutnains for heli-skiing due to unstable snowpack
Certification standards for heli-skiing guides
Challenges to guaranteeing areas are free of users prior to avalanche control bombing


2. Will cause unnecessary increase in user conflicts: In the Silverton area there are thousands of acres of remote terrain not accessible to day use by skiers, snowboarders, snowmobilers, dog walkers and others that can be used for heli-skiing. There is no need to increase user conflicts by allowing heli-skiing in commonly used front-country areas accessible by county roads. Adding more than 10,000 acres to Silverton Guides Recreation Permit is not an exchange, but an addition of more than 16 square miles of public lands that under certain conditions will be the exclusive use of the permittee.

3. BLM should not prioritize commercial over public use: The BLM has no obligation to prioritize the commercial use of public lands ahead of the interests of recreational users and other businesses who currently and historically have utilized these accessible-by-road front country areas without the concerns of helicopter noise, avalanche control activities and possible road closures.

Learn more on our Blog.

Send your comments today:

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