May 24, 2011

Shoshone Falls, Idaho - Spring versus Late Summer

Shoshone Falls is called by some the Niagara of the West. These 200 foot falls of the Snake River located in Twin Falls, Idaho mark the historic location furthest inland that Pacific Salmon could migrate before reaching this impassible boundary. We first visited Shoshone Falls in September of 2009. At that time it looked very different.

September 15th, 2009

When we visited in September, the Snake River was at the traditional lowest point of the year. The snow has melted from the mountains and much of the Snake River has been siphoned off for agriculture all summer long. Thus, when we visited, it was not much more than a large rock wall with some ribbons of water streaming down.

May 23rd, 2011

But, in May of 2011, with Rocky Mountain snowpacks at 200% of normal this year and the late spring rains still coming, the Snake River is really full. The falls are tumbling and roaring and now it really deserves the title of Niagara of the West. Except that Gloria says that Niagara Falls is not even this loud or wild.

This record year for wet weather and snow is causing both blessings and curses depending on the location and situation. Lake Powell is filling up and is able to send water down to help refill Lake Mead. Back in 2005, Lake Powell got so low that is almost reached the dangerous "Dead Pool" stage where no hydroelectricity could be produced and inadequate water levels could not be released into the Grand Canyon. So, that is a welcome change. Hydropower is booming all across the west from the volume of water going through generators. High elevation forests will not be stressed this year from the historic droughts they have been facing the last decade or so.

September 2009

On the other hand, rivers are topping their banks and threating to flood communities and farmland. The Great Salt Lake is rising and may encroach into low lying areas and neighborhoods. The roads through the high mountains will open late as they plow through 20-30 feet of snow and hiking trails will not be free until July or later.

May 2011
Well, so goes Global Climate Change or as I recently heard it called "Global Weirding". Climatologists have long predicted that the impacts of rising temperatures (even as subtle as a 1 degree) are not that it feels warmer or melts snow faster, but that is rearranges our normal climate systems. Dramatic events like more frequent and more powerful tornadoes, massive flooding in some places and droughts in others, and just more dramatic weather than we are used to (and our infrastructure is built for) is going to become more of the norm than we grew up with.

1 comment:

A.Queen said...

Wow! That is amazing the difference! Makes me want to head to Twin Falls...and I may well do just that! Thank you for sharing!!