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Friday, July 25, 2014

Puppy Tales and Drought

Posted Sunday, August 21, 2011, at 6:06 PM

 

 

We are in a bit of a drought at the moment. Leaves are falling from the trees and even the lawn weeds are starting to wither up and die. I don't personally recall any other time when, after rain finally falls, the pavement will be wet, but the ground is still dry and cracked. (Note: The drought of 1987 occurred when I was busy enjoying college life.)

The most significant aspect of the drought for me at the moment is it affects my ability to walk my beagles. The rain makes natural things break down. Without rain, things desiccate. Items in the yard start to fossilize and persist nearly forever.

Beagles are scent dogs. Inevitably, they are most attracted to the scent of undesirable things. Being partially surrounded by woods, rabbits routinely visit my yard. After many months of little to no rain, the yard is now filled with thousands upon thousands of dried rabbit pellets.

To a beagle, the yard may as well be scattered with the most fragrant of rose petals soaked in the sweetest ambrosia. Every walk turns into a tug of war with them. The beagles struggle to get to any bushy area where the rabbits have been while I try to get them into open places where they can be away from distraction and take care of their business.

Autumn rains would be very welcome at this point.

The drought has made everything dusty. My dust is gathering dust! It would not take too many more similarly dry seasons before we could see dust clouds whipped up by the wind. Even now, passing traffic whips up dust from the fringes of the paving long the roads.

I feel very concerned for the future of our country. When people do not take the lessons of history, it repeats itself. Economic trouble and drought makes me wonder about the Dust Bowl era. One influential bureaucrat in the 1930s concluded the Dust Bowl was the fault of man and his "modern" farming practices. The idea caught on. It seems that ever since man huddled in a cave behind a fire, every generation wants to blame bad weather on human sins.

However, geology suggests drought, flood, blizzard, etc., are natural and recurring phenomena. Our bedrock in this area is limestone and sandstone. These materials accreted while North America was under the ocean. If this is so, where did our soil come from?

Soils are continually either eroding or accreting. In the high desert of Idaho, Wyoming, etc., the region has been going through a long period of erosion. We know this because the fossilized bones of dinosaurs from 65 million years ago are poking through the surface. All of the earth's geological history in that area has simply all turned into dust and blown or washed away.

Here in Indiana, the glaciers pushed the earlier soils, which accumulated over the bedrock, down into the Ohio River valley or thereabouts. The Clay for which our area is famous (or infamous) is a vast accumulation of very fine dust blown from the west to settle here in the east. That kind of dust only develops during severe drought when plants are not holding the soil. E.g. The soils and pulverized rock that blew East from the desert West.

The last Dust Bowl was in the 1930s. There is no recorded history of the American West prior to the arrival of European settlers. There is no way that I know of to determine when any of the previous dust bowls were. Likewise, there is no way to know when the next will come.

Are we on the verge of another Dust Bowl? Probably not. Three years ago it was floods. This year and last has been drought. In the end, I am reminded of an agriculture product commercial from the early 1970s, which accurately advised that "average weather" is found by taking 10 years of strange weather and dividing by 10.


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To be more specific, we have had ample rain for the last four springs. In fact we have been well above average in rainfall in the first six months of the past four years, only to be very dry after the 4th of July, which I am convinced is the wettest single calendar day of the whole year on average.

Weather "norms" are based on the last thirty years. To kind of define my comment about the 4th of July, according to statistics that Jesse Walker has shared, of the last thirty "4ths", it has rained 15 of them. More specifically, of the last ten, it has rained seven of them. And of those, most seem to have been substancial rains, either in amount, or duration, or both. Just ask a Rotary Club member.

So yes, I would appreciate a good shower soon. However even if we don't get it, my bet is come next March, April, and May, we will be again complaining about all the rain we are getting just like the last several springs.

-- Posted by ClayCountyGuy on Mon, Aug 22, 2011, at 8:00 AM


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