Steamboat Springs A haze that has settled over the Steamboat Springs area has some people scratching their heads, but one local scientist thinks pollution from the Front Range could be the culprit.
"I can barely see the Hayden power plant," said Ian McCubbin of the Storm Peak Laboratory near the peak of the Steamboat Ski Area. "That's pretty thick."
McCubbin, one of the head scientists at the lab, said he analyzed the winds and weather patterns. He also looked at the air's particle and aerosol concentrations, which pointed to smog coming from an urban area.
"It's definitely some sort of regional aerosol contribution," McCubbin said, adding north and east winds in recent days could have pushed the pollution into Northwest Colorado from the Front Range. "I think this is pollution and biomass aerosols."
The haze also caught the attention of Routt County Emergency Management Director Chuck Vale.
"I looked out and thought 'Is there a fire somewhere?'" he said.
Vale checked the situation reports to see where controlled burns were taking place, checked his weather sources and figured the haze was being caused by moisture in the air.
But, Grand Junction National Weather Service meteorologist Norv Larson said Wednesday that was not likely.
"It's got to be smoke blowing in from somewhere," Larson said. "It's either dust particulate or smoke from a fire."
The visibility was not diminished enough to affect local air traffic, but the haze left Steamboat Springs Airport Manager Mel Baker curious. "We've all been wondering where it's coming from," Baker said.
U.S. Forest Service fire management officer Mark Cahur said there were no active wildfires in Colorado. The haze was widespread and also was reported in Moffat County, which ruled out the possibility it was being caused by controlled burns.
Cahur said it was possible the haze could be the result of wildfires in California. A 4,200-acre fire on Santa Catalina Island was nearly contained Sunday. Cahur said there are two other California fires burning a total of about 4,700 acres.
Cahur said the haze also could be caused by recent storm systems. Dirt or sand could have drifted over from a Great Basin storm, he said.
"It is dust, smoke or other particulate matter," Cahur said.
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