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Desert Diary


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Although we generally think of the Chihuahuan Desert as arid, except of course, for the Rio Grande and Rio Conchos, it hasn't always been that way. During the last ice age, numerous lakes graced the landscape. In those days, the summer temperatures were notably cooler and, indeed, allowed those bodies of water to form. Thus the lakes were a product of climate. But in turn, they undoubtedly affected climate.

As those living by the ocean or other large bodies of water well know, water ameliorates temperature extremes by being slow to warm and slow to cool. The hot air of summer is cooled by a lake, a lake warming so slowly that autumn will arrive before it comes close to being as warm as the air; but, of course, it loses heats just as slowly, warming the air into the dead of winter. Unfortunately, water comes with a few problems of its own. Not the least of these are mosquitos. Perhaps early inhabitants were willing to accept a little extreme temperature for an unperforated hide.
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Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


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.