Drought Drags In

Ninety-eight days without measurable precipitation, with no rain or snow in the foreseeable future. Drought is creeping back into the High Plains, and everyone is wary, watching the dry grass, watching the sky, waiting for something and praying for rain or wet snow. The grasses are brown, the normal winter color. But the ground is starting to dry, and to blow.

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Explosive Cyclogenesis: Or Enough With “Bomb Storm” Already

Once again, the various national media outlets have taken a perfectly useful technical term and turned it into something a la “Sharknado.” Without the funny bits and parody material (OK, so I liked it when the shark ghost came out of the bucket of water at the charity car wash. I’m strange, yes.)

Bombogenesis was a technical term developed after 1945 to describe a rapidly strengthening low-pressure system. The technical term was explosive cyclogenesis. Low pressure systems in North America are all, technically, cyclones and demonstrate cyclonic rotation. Tornadoes are cyclones, but most cyclones are not tornadoes. Clear as mud? OK, moving on. Continue reading

No Smoking, Or Else!

This spot was not beside the road when I went to work. It was most certainly there as I left.


Thanks be that the winds were calm. Two days before, a grass fire south of a public high school almost got really, really interesting thanks to 25 MPH winds gusting to 35. We could see the smoke from Barnes and Noble, and even from Redquarters. Continue reading

Urban Authoritarian Impulses?

The idea began gnawing at me after watching some news stories while in Germany. Why did the younger generation so long for “someone” to step in and give orders? And why communo-environmentalism? What was the attraction for so many younger people in Europe? And the US for that matter, when you start to think about things.

Could it be in part the lack of property and space? Continue reading

Webb’s Great Plains: Firearms

After some thought, I decided to make this a separate post.

The question arose last week, about why Walter Prescott Webb gave credit to the culture of the Great Plains for favoring the handgun over the rifle. It seems a bit counter intuitive, since rifles could drop a buffalo and a handgun really didn’t do so well. Rifles are long-distance weapons compared to pistols, and if there’s one thing the plains have it is distances. But Webb is thinking like an Indian or a Texas Ranger, and to that he attributes the preference of the revolver over the rifle.

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Sky Determines?

With all due apologies to Ross Calvin, whose work by that title is an early environmental study of the American Southwest, geographic determinism has been hotly argued for quite a while, going back to Europe and probably before that. Are Scandinavians pale because they come from the North, or were they forced to move north because they are so pale? Does physical environment mold culture? If so how much? If not why not? Historians of the American West have been grappling with that concept since, well, almost forever, but it was Walter Prescott Webb who really kicked things into high gear. We’ve been cussing and discussing his theory ever since. Continue reading

When You Want a Flood: Restoration Releases

So, what do you do when a group of naturalists, hydrologists, and other river-management people agree that a river needs more floods? Aside from blink, rub your eyes, and go back to read the lede again just to make sure. That actually began to happen starting around thirty* years ago, as we [hydrology and biology types] learned more about the mechanics of how rivers work, and what happens when you turn rivers into a long series of pools. If you want the river to act like a river, sometimes you have to open the taps again. Sort of. Ish. Continue reading