Monday, March 16

Desertification on little cat feet

Years before the severe drought struck in California a police official there told what's probably an old joke in the state.  "California has three seasons:  floods, forest fires, and mud slides." 

Yet it's only in the past year that I've started to appreciate the ramifications of what is actually a vicious cycle. My first lesson about the cycle came last year while I read a news report headlined, "The Greening of New Mexico."   The reporter, a New Mexican, joyously reported on the surprise blessing rains that drenched the parched brown landscape and almost overnight turned it a beautiful green.

I shared in her joy, as I'm sure every American did who'd been closely following what was a catastrophic drought in the state.  Residents in the region were literally dancing and singing in the downpours.  All except for one group of people mentioned in the report:  wildfire fighting officials.

The only thing they could see when they looked at all that green was miles and miles of bone dry tinder. 

If the rains were only a temporary reprieve from the long-running drought, soon the greenery would dry out again.  The slightest spark or a lighting strike would then touch off a conflagration that could endanger large tracts of the state's forests, already fragile from the effects of drought.  If the rains then returned in force there would be even more flooding as the deluge fell on large burned out tracts of forest.   

And so it goes.  One way desertification happens.


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