Manual The Great American Desert

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In The Great Plains , Walter Prescott Webb recapitulated the boosters' rediscovery of the desert in the s; the only difference between Webb's discovery and that of his booster predecessors was that he found in the s references to the Great American Desert in three school geographies from and Based upon these, he built a factitious superstructure: the Great American Desert idea did exist in the American mind from to , was at its most popular in the s, and halted the American frontier.

American historians who wrote the school and college textbooks followed Webb's interpretation of the desert myth. The paradox exists, therefore, that during the period from to , when Webb and his followers claimed that a Great American Desert existed in the American mind, practically nobody, excepting the Mormons after and a well-educated minority in the Northeast before , believed in the existence of a desert west of the Missouri.


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The only period during which a belief in either a real or an imaginary Great American Desert in the Great Plains region ever existed consensually in the American mind, and then only among the high-school- and college-educated, was from to Martyn J. Bowden Clark University. Bowden, Martyn J. New York: Oxford University Press, Lewis, G. The boosters, local county historians, and Plains newspaper editors of the period from to erased the memory of the land actually encountered by the pioneers. After Plains pioneers, predominantly midwesterners who had encountered no Great American Desert in their texts in the s and s, conveniently adopted the eastern boosters' textbook desert in their reminiscences recorded for state historical societies and for publishers of county histories.

They talked themselves into believing that they had either conquered or disproved the existence of the desert. In effect, they initiated the process of the reinvention of the tradition of the Great American Desert by claiming to have conquered it. The romantic Plains historians from to drew on these pioneer recollections without knowing of the selfglorification embedded within them, completed the reinvention of the desert tradition, and propagated it. In The Great Plains , Walter Prescott Webb recapitulated the boosters' rediscovery of the desert in the s; the only difference between Webb's discovery and that of his booster predecessors was that he found in the s references to the Great American Desert in three school geographies from and Based upon these, he built a factitious superstructure: the Great American Desert idea did exist in the American mind from to , was at its most popular in the s, and halted the American frontier.

American historians who wrote the school and college textbooks followed Webb's interpretation of the desert myth.

The paradox exists, therefore, that during the period from to , when Webb and his followers claimed that a Great American Desert existed in the American mind, practically nobody, excepting the Mormons after and a well-educated minority in the Northeast before , believed in the existence of a desert west of the Missouri. The only period during which a belief in either a real or an imaginary Great American Desert in the Great Plains region ever existed consensually in the American mind, and then only among the high-school- and college-educated, was from to Now, Mr.

Locations west of the th Meridian usually received less than 20 inches of rainfall in a year, while those locations east of the th Meridian would get greater than 20 inches of rain. I happen to own a small farm in the Flint Hills about an hour east of Wichita, Kansas, and I keep pretty good records of rainfall on my farm.

It struck me that, if the Dry Line had moved eastward, my own records would provide a clue. In fact, last year, , was perfect growing weather that yielded a bumper crop. I wondered, to what data was Mr. Seager looking? An article in Earth Magazine gave more information.

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They estimated potential evapotranspiration — the amount of water the atmosphere could potentially extract from the surface — from the land based on temperature, wind speed, solar radiation and relative humidity. The ratio of actual precipitation to potential evapotranspiration provides the aridity index. Notice that this is not the same measurement used by Mr. Experience teaches that it is not wise to depend upon rainfall where the amount is less than 20 inches annually, if this amount is somewhat evenly distributed throughout the year.

Between these two points the line is very irregular, but in middle latitudes makes a general curve to the westward. Powell also noted three other modifiying conditions to successful non-irrigated agriculture along this line: altitude, latitude and temperature. The work has been accepted for publication in the journal Earth Interactions. Here is the abstract of the research of Mr. We further determined that this arid-humid boundary is primarily caused by strong spatial gradients in precipitation and humidity, which in turn are caused by the seasonal cycle in wind direction and moisture transport.

Using CMIP5 climate model data , the future was projected in year increments from the present through Models project that the arid-humid boundary will shift eastward by approximately 2 to 3 degrees by the end of the 21st Century, the gradient will weaken, and that the entire continental US will experience at least some degree of aridification.

So, really, have warming conditions pushed Mr.


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Ross in his Wall Street Journal essay? First, I looked at a map of the high plains to find village or town sites that had weather observational records.

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The high plains are sparsely settled, so there are not a lot of sites that sit very close to the th Meridian. The annual rainfall records indicate that reporting stations near the th Meridian in the northern high plains are much drier than those in the southern high plains. The average annual rainfall for the four chosen sites in North Dakota was Averages proceeding southward: South Dakota: Reported annual average rainfall for sites near the th Meridian ranged from a low of The seven northernmost reporting stations all had annual average rainfall of less than twenty-one inches, as did the southernmost station in Carrizo Springs, Texas.

I then looked up a corresponding weather station that was approximately miles east of these twenty sites, to determine average annual rainfall. For the twenty stations that were approximately miles east of the th Meridian, approximately between the 97 th and 98 th Meridians, we find as we did further west, that the northern plains are drier than the southern plains.

Reported annual average rainfall for sites about miles east of the th Meridian ranged from a low of From what I see in the average annual rainfall records, it seems that the assertion by Mr. But, remember, that is not what Prof.

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I questioned, next, whether the average rainfall amounts were skewed by larger numbers back further in time, and that, maybe, the most recent years are drier than earlier years. So I chose a set of eleven stations to examine the actual reported rainfall for each month in the five most recent years: For this data I used www. This website has monthly history data for only larger regional weather stations, thus, the limit to eleven stations. Here is the average annual rainfall for the years for weather stations near the th Meridian, and the corresponding overall average annual rainfall from www.

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Here is the average annual rainfall for the years for weather stations about miles east of the th Meridian, and the corresponding overall average annual rainfall from www. There is no noticeable pattern of decreased rainfall in any of the above records. Of the five locations near the th Meridian, two have more average annual rainfall in the last five years than their usual average, and three have less.

Of the six locations east of the th Meridian, four have more average annual rainfall in the last five years than their usual average, and two have less. John Wesley Powell made his conception of the Dry Line using his observations of plant and animal life and especially rainfall. When we use that same rainfall methodology today, we confirm that the Dry Line is, today, still near the th Meridian.

No modeling needed.

The Great American Desert "White Clay" (Lawrence High School Classroom Sessions Pt.1)

Alarmists use magic every day to create data from thin air. North Dakota is the most vulnerable to attacks of dry, frosty air from the north. I suppose that the growing season in this American state will be shortened. Anti science alarmists. US precipitation is increasing and not looking bipolar. Midwest has gotten wetter too. But I guess its the skeptics who are the deniers?

Once the grass or crop grew it would be transpiration but evaporation would surely decline because the soil would be protected shaded from the sun and wind surely!? Once the water penetrates the sub-soil it tends to linger , and a series of wet winters would achieve that……and the rainfall chart seems to show that!

Edward Abbey's Great American Desert Essay

The author here is confusing two different measures the aridity index and the annual rainfall. If the rate of evaporation increases while the annual rainfall stays constant then the amount of water available for plant growth will decrease and this is measured by the aridity index. The paper discusses the aridity index rather than just the annual rainfall which is a more crude measure. There are two papers by Seager. The other presents a model suggesting that it may be moving eastward.

There are no measurements, observations or data demonstrating that it has shifted. Its not pushing any line east. Its a completely new, and convoluted, indicator.