mesure de l'eau dans les pyrenees crédit photo : © Meteo Pyrénées

Participatory science to measure water resources in the Pyrenees

by Exploreur @UFTMP – may 2021

February and April: this winter of 2021 saw new waves of sand from the Sahara covering the snow cover in the Alps and the Pyrenees. Driven by strong winds from Africa, large quantities of sand dust gave the sky an orange colour. The rather humid atmosphere also transformed this dust into real sandy rain, covering the snow which also turned orange.

This phenomenon is not new and has even increased. Research confirms a clear increase in these phenomena over the last 33 years.

Facing the extent of the phenomenon, Simon Gascoin, a researcher at the CNRS/CESBIO in Toulouse, and his team have launched a call to collect samples of orange snow. The aim of the participatory science project called “Aidez-nous à mesurer la neige orange” (Help us to measure the orange snow) is to quantify the quantity of dust that has fallen and to estimate the effect of the phenomenon on snowmelt. Indeed, when snow turns orange, it becomes darker than its original white colour and therefore absorbs more solar energy. Orange snow warms up faster and therefore melts more quickly.

These Saharan sand dusts also cause peaks in air pollution, with harmful effects on road and air transport, or on the respiratory tract in humans. The consequences are therefore obvious for human health as well as for the quantity of water resources present in the snow and lakes of the Pyrenees. Collaboration between science and society is today a necessary action to multiply the data and complete the approaches.

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