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Soil erosion in the West is getting worse. And that’s creating more dust – which isn’t good for ecosystems, human health or the economy. A study from the U.S. Geological Survey says more than 200 thousand square miles of land in the U.S. is more susceptible than ever to soil erosion from wind. And roughly two-thirds of that is on federally managed land in the West. According to MichaelDuniway, the lead author of the study the cause of increased dust stem from removal of vegetation, energy exploration, off-highway vehicles, overgrazing as well as droughts and wildfires.
Duniway said climate models predict those conditions will only get worse:
Wind erosion is not only bad for desert ecosystems like in the Four Corners area because soil loses its nutrients to the air, but soil erosion also hurts non-desert areas.
Accelerated erosion by wind off the desert can transport dust into the Rocky Mountains, and that landing on the snowpack can cause a decrease in annual water flows for the Colorado River basin which is a large deal, considering the importance of the Colorado River for agriculture and city uses in the West
Why This Matters: Some scientists believe that we are heading toward another Dust Bowl but this time we’ll be the cause of both of the effects: poor soil management and drought caused by anthropogenic climate change. According to the Environmental Working Group, dust storms are also being compounded by crop insurance that is encouraging farmers to keep planting on compromised land year after year, degrading it further. Dust storms are a major public health risk and since they travel so quickly can affect millions of Americans at a time.
Go Deeper: Dust travels far and wide, in fact, last week snow falling in Minnesota had a strange orange tinge which was the result of dust that was blown from the Southwest. The dust injection blew into Minnesota from west Texas and northern Mexico. NOAA satellites tracked the dust plume, some of which traveled as far as 1,000 miles. Check out this satellite footage:
By Amy Lupica, ODP Daily Editor Today, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its 2021 Plowprint Report, which tracks the amount of grasslands lost to plow-up each year. This year’s study found that plow-up across the Great Plains has only continued to accelerate, releasing exorbitant amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. The report concludes that […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer With global temperatures rising and rainfall patterns changing, global agriculture is shifting too — with big changes projected. Places like Siberia and northern Canada that have been too frigid for farming in centuries past are expected to become cropland by the end of the century. But it’s not a […]
By Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer The National Park Service has closed down a large swathe of Alaska’s Denali National Park after excessive permafrost thawing caused landslide activity near the park’s only access road. The access road is now closed, blocking entry to about half of the park. Park officials say that although there have been landslides in […]
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