The intense storm roaring through the central United States has generated every type of weather imaginable, from extreme heat to severe thunderstorms to a historic blizzard.
It has converted the atmosphere into a giant blender, flinging hot, dry air from sweltering Texas north into frigid air lodged over the northern Plains and Upper Midwest, where snow is falling.
Along this lengthy journey, the storm’s conveyor belt of strong winds has picked up, lofted and ultimately deposited a film of dust. So the snow plastering South Dakota and Minnesota has morphed from pristine white into an earthy mix of yellow, brown, tan and orange.
“The tan color in the snow is from dust that has been blown by the high winds all the way from west Texas,” tweeted the National Weather Service serving the Twin Cities. “It’s amazing what winds can do.”
Daniel Dix, a meteorologist and air quality scientist in Minneapolis, corroborated the National Weather Service’s explanation. He tweeted that the storm had picked up the dust in west Texas, transported it north at high altitudes, before finally “momentum” (from the falling precipitation) had brought the dust to the ground.
The blowing dust in eastern New Mexico and west Texas can be seen in the satellite image below:
Additional satellite imagery shows the airborne dust streaking north through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa.
While dust getting mixed into snow is unusual, it has been observed before. Last March, dust from the Sahara was blown north over the Mediterranean Sea into Russia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania and Moldova — where the snow took on an orange hue.
Here are some images of the dirty snow Thursday in Minnesota: