“The most weird, wonderful, magical place on earth” is how author Edward Abbey described the colorful wilderness of gorges, mesas, and buttes that is Canyonlands National Park, one of the last relatively undisturbed parts of the Colorado Plateau. That landscape also represents a special place of emotional healing and rejuvenation for returned combat veteran Michael Cummings. Haunted by traumatic memories after two tours of duty in Iraq, Cummings was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, survivor’s guilt, alcohol abuse and thoughts of suicide.
The historical photo collection at Northern Arizona University’s Cline Library will be a key tool in answering a very modern question over the coming months. Dating back to the late 1800s, the images will be used like a visual time machine to reveal the effects of changing climate – and land management – on northern Arizona’s plant communities.
Principal investigator Professor Tom Whitham says that comparing historical and contemporary photos will allow us to literally see how vegetation has changed over time.
It’s unusual for the southwestern states to be affected by hurricanes. Most years, predominant wind patterns in the Eastern Pacific Ocean steer storms away from the region. But about once every five years – like this year – the ocean winds change direction.
And those shifting winds steer hurricanes closer to northwestern Mexico, making them more likely to head northwards and track across the southwestern U.S.
Reporter John Fleck wrote an unusual obituary in the Albuquerque Journal in September – on the death of a 650-year old Douglas-fir.
Known as “Yoda,” the tree was an icon for climate scientists. Growing out of a lava flow at El Malpais National Monument and measuring barely 7 feet high, Yoda was tiny for a Douglas-fir—which can grow 150 feet tall in moist southwestern canyons. But despite its diminutive size, an annual growth ring count showed that the tree had been alive since at least 1406.
Drought is a universally understood phenomenon — especially here in the arid Southwest. But what does drought really mean? To help define the term, and the concept, scientists use several commonly used drought indices. Each summarizes thousands of data points on rainfall and other information into a single handy number.
In 1986, after a statewide vote by thousands of school children, the Arizona Tree Frog became Arizona’s official state amphibian. Beating out better-known rivals like the spadefoot toad by a wide margin, this small and seldom-seen frog might seem an unlikely candidate for top spot. But it makes sense when you realize how much they love to climb.
Rarely more than two inches long, with smooth green skin and a dark stripe running from eye to rear, these amphibians live mostly above 5,000 feet in the forests of central-northern Arizona, close to streams and wet meadows.