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Desert Diary


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Often it's the little things that count—like a 5-thousandths of a degree rise in deep-sea temperatures. Small, but it has scientists who study the ocean all aflutter. We've newly found that water in the deeps of the northern Pacific has heated that much since 1985. "So what?" you might well ask. "So what" is that this is a tip-off that something's going on that we had no hint of—that our models of oceanic dynamics have missed entirely. We had thought that it took some 800 years for North Pacific surface waters to mix into the deep; we were wrong!

Past climatic changes have been rapid and drastic. Seemingly, they tend to flip-flop between extremes rather than drift slowly from one state to another. A flame touched to the fuse of a firecracker initiates events far beyond what the heat of the flame would suggest. Is the warming Pacific such a flame? We don't know. And how could 5-thousandths of a degree temperature change eventually affect our desert? Once again, we don't know!
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest. rule

Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.