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Desert Diary
Climate/Ice Age


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Why, it's only a few thousand years old! How odd that seems to many of us—ONLY a few thousand years? Yet, this is the perspective of beings with all too short a life span—we who count the years of our lives in decades rather than millennia. However, placed in terms of the nearly 4.6 billion years of geologic time, even a few millions of years is short. But we don't have to go back that far to find vast changes in our desert region. The northern part of our desert dates back—as desert—only to about the time of the Egyptian pyramids.

During the height of the last Ice Age, about 20,000 years ago, the northern reaches of what is now Chihuahuan Desert were cooler and moister, supporting woodlands, grasslands, and sagebrush even at low elevations. As Ice Age conditions began to give way, the region slowly dried out and warmed up. The northern desert as we know it only arrived from the south about 4,000 years ago—those "few thousand years".
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

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