Don’t eat the snow in North Dakota

North Dakota has the dirtiest snow in America, according to researchers.

The Fargo Forum reports a University of Washington study determined that the snow is dirtiest in the Great Plains, particularly in North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

Over a two-month period in 2013, Sarah Doherty, a University of Washington scientist, took snow samples from 67 sites across the northern states. Fourteen of the sites were in North Dakota or the Minnesota side of the Red River Valley, according to the Forum.

The researchers would usually hike a half-mile to a mile away from roads or industrial sites to gather snow to avoid skewing their samples. Every two to three days, they’d rent an extra hotel room that they would rearrange into a lab, and out would come the beakers and white lab coats.

“I’m sure more than one or two cleaning staff people were wondering what the heck we were doing – it looked a little bit pretty crazy,” Doherty said.

She expected to find more pollutants in North Dakota’s Oil Patch because of oil drilling and related activities, which was the case, but she said she also found a lot of airborne dirt that landed in the snow. Though it’s not possible to trace particles in their samples to specific activities, she said it’s reasonable to believe dirt kicked up by oilfield trucks and their diesel fumes eventually got in the snow.

The cleanest snow was in northern Canada, with snow in the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountains a bit dirtier and the Great Plains varying from somewhat dirty to very dirty.

The results are being used to gauge the impact on climate change. Dark snow melts sooner, warming things up faster. North Dakota is the coldest of the lower 48 states, but it has also seen the fastest warming trend, according to North Dakota state climatologist F. Adnan Akyuz at North Dakota State University.