Atmospheric dust deposited to snow cover (dust-on-snow) diminishes snow-surface albedo (SSA) to result in early onset and accelerated rate of melting, effects that challenge management of downstream water resources. During ongoing investigations to identify the light-energy absorbing dust particles most responsible for diminished SSA in the Upper Colorado River Basin of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, we found microplastic particles, which are defined as those less than 5 millimeters in any dimension. In each of the 38 samples that represented the last remaining dust layer during melt seasons of 2013–16, microplastics were identified by size, shape, and color, and their relative amounts were visually estimated using stereomicroscopy. Considering the remote, high-elevation settings of the sample sites, the microplastic particles must have been deposited from the atmosphere. The possible role of microplastics for diminishing SSA of snow cover in the Upper Colorado River Basin may be linked to the solar-energy absorptive properties of polymers and is the subject of ongoing investigation.
|Title||Microplastic particles in dust-on-snow, Upper Colorado River Basin, Colorado Rocky Mountains, 2013–16|
|Authors||Richard L. Reynolds, Harland L. Goldstein, Raymond F. Kokaly, Jeff Derry|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center|