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The American West’s Salt Lakes Are Turning to Dust

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This story originally appeared on High Country News and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Last summer, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration observed dust blowing 85 miles from its source, Lake Abert and Summer Lake, two dried-up saline lakes in southern Oregon. This has happened before: Saline lakebeds are some of the West’s most significant sources of dust. California’s Owens Lake is the nation’s largest source of PM10, the tiny pollutants found in dust and smoke, while plumes blowing off the 800 square miles of the Great Salt Lake’s exposed bed have caused toxin-filled dust storms in Salt Lake City.

Saline lakes are rapidly losing water to climate change and agricultural and urban uses, becoming some of the West’s most threatened ecosystems. Now, new legislation is offering some support. On December 27, President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan Saline Lake Ecosystems in the Great Basin States Program Act, which allocates $25 million in funding for research and monitoring at saline lakes across the Great Basin. While this funding is an…



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