Sunday, April 26, 2009

Western "Dust Bowl" possible

USGS ecologists warn that by midcentury, the fragility of the region's soil "will be equal to that of the Dust Bowl days," according to an extensive report in the Washington Post.

A record-setting 11 major dust storms have hit the Colorado Rockies this year, which is causing the snowpack to melt faster and affecting air quality. [right, a full-color image captured from the Aqua MODIS Satellite at approximately 2 pm MST on April 15, 2009. The image shows significant red coloring of low-level clouds by an active dust storm emanating from areas north of Interstate 40 in northern Arizona. The tinted clouds reach far north of Interstate 70 in southern Utah. This event is the third such event during the spring of 2009 captured by satellite sensors; in each instance, significant source plumes have been detected emanating from the northeast corner Arizona. Caption from USGS. Photo credit, Rian Bogle, USGS] The USGS Canyonlands Research Station has more satellite photos, videos, and reports.

The increased dust movement is attributed to more human disturbance of soils in the Western U.S. combined with climate changes.

The Post stated, "soil is being loosened by off-road vehicles, livestock grazing, and road development for oil and gas production, much of it on public land. A Washington Post analysis of federal data from areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management found that between 2004 and 2008, off-road vehicle use rose 19 percent, the number of oil and gas wells increased 24 percent and grazing acreage climbed 7 percent."

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