Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cyclin' in the rain

When we arrived in Colorado for our cycling trip, we were told that the region was in a ten-year drought, and that we should not expect to experience much rain (actually a good chunk of the U.S. appears to be in drought conditions). As we got our trip underway, we found that we got wet almost every day, at least for a little while. One night it rained all night, and towards the end of the trip, which was in New Mexico, we detoured around a whole section that is apparently impassable after it's been raining. From our detour along a regional road we could see the dark clouds and downwards streaks that signify rain hanging in the mountais we would have ridden through.

When we asked people if the rain was usual, we were told, that yes, this was in fact the local monsoon season, so the rain was perfectly normal. It was just that it hadn't fallen during the last ten years due to the drought. We were also told that the arroyos in New Mexico were running faster and higher than they had in years.

I wonder at what point a changed climate becomes the new normal? To me, ten years of drought signifies a changed trend in the weather; I would have called the rain unusual. Add to this that the long-term trends for the region suggest that the last hundred years or so have been the wettest in a long time overall.

Perhaps in a region where water is so scarce, it is hard to accept that a year with rain could be the exception rather than the rule.

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