BYU study links shrinking Great Salt Lake, other vanishing water bodies to 90% of northern Utah’s dust

11 December 2019 Published in News & Events

By Brian Maffly, Salt Lake Tribune

Upwind from northern Utah’s urban centers is a network of lakebeds, dried-up remnants of a vast prehistoric inland sea that dominated the region when the climate was much wetter and cooler that it is today.

Now, as western Utah becomes even drier — from drought, water diversions and climate change — these playas have become a major source of dust settling on Wasatch Front cities and their mountain water sources, according to new research conducted by Brigham Young University geologists.

Led by geology professor Greg Carling, the study concluded 90% of the dust is blown off the exposed beds of the shrinking Great Salt Lake, Sevier Lake and other valley bottoms once covered by ancient Lake Bonneville.

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Why We Care

  • Years ago the Great Salt Lake was a entertainment destination for the people of Salt Lake City. One of my ancestors had a vacation home near Black Rock, where he would take his family to escape the heat and cares of the city. That was a long time ago and a lot has changed since then. For many reasons the lake is not as popular as it once was. But it has been a source of peace, contemplation, and inspiration to me. I reflect on photos I have seen of the grand days of Saltair and the love of floating in the lake. I have done this myself on numerous occasions. I love the sensation of effortlessly floating. And we can escape the cares of the world.

    Clinton Whiting, Alfred Lambourne Prize Participant