Monday, February 27, 2017

Climate change in action, and for the better.

Taken by the EarthKAM camera on the International Space Station, this photograph shows Australia’s largest inland lake. Lake Eyre is easily recognizable from space, being a large, white-floored lake bed that is usually dry. However, a remarkable, periodic change was visible in February 2017.
Tan, green, and blue splotches stretching across the lake bed are the result of flood waters channeled down Warburton Groove. The Warburton Creek enters Lake Eyre at its northern end, and is seen here flooding into the dry lake. The event gave rise to a variety of colors indicating new vegetation, algae-tinted water, and muds transported by the flood water. A smaller discolored zone appears where the southern arm of the Warburton delta has also spilled water onto the lake floor (image center).
In this desert region, flood waters rarely reach the lake, instead evaporating along the way or getting absorbed by dune sand. But after heavy rains fell in late 2016, floods in rivers like the Warburton and Cooper have managed to reach Lake Eyre after a delay of months as the water slowly rolled across the vast watershed. As of February 20, 2017, water was reported to be flowing down the entire length of the lake (130 kilometers, or 80 miles), and reaching one of the lowest points (15 meters or 50 feet below sea level) at Belt Bay, where the water depth was measured at 1.3 meters (4 feet).
Here in California and Nevada, the heavy snows should be excellent for the water levels in desert lakes such as Mono, Pyramid, Walker, and perhaps even rarely seen Lake Winnemucca, which only fills in very wet years.  I'd like to see that view from EarthKAM in, say, mid May.

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