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Desert Diary


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Snow-capped mountains and montane glaciers are things of beauty. They also are an economic resource that is threatened by global warming. The Himalayas feed the rivers that billions of people rely upon for water. Current snowmelt and the retreat of glaciers now supply lots of water; so much, that flooding from the collapse of glacial lake dams is a major concern. But sooner or later, water from ice that's built up over millennia is going to decline to a trickle.

Closer to home, the peoples living along the Rio Grande and other rivers originating in the Southern Rockies also face problems. These rivers depend primarily on winter snows melting gradually over several months. Two problems loom: later onset of fall and early springs mean that precipitation that once would have added to the snowpack instead results in precipitation falling as rain; rain that quickly runs off. The same temperature shifts also mean earlier melting and faster snowmelt runoff in the spring. The key to good river-water management is a slow, steady flow—not feast followed by famine.
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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.