Our climate is changing and our planet is changing. It always has been changing. The evidence is in the landscape, which tells the earth’s story for those interested enough to read it. The forces of nature are so awesome that one really needs to just stop and think for a beat or two in order to contemplate just what that means. I love the ocean and watching the waves from distant shores crash on the beach making rock into sand and then even finer sand. The sight and sound does something for my soul. These physical processes remind me that our mother earth is a living breathing system, albeit an enormous one at that.
Wind and water working together to form beautiful landscapes offer an explanation, even to the casual viewer, of the immensity and grandeur of forces that shaped them to what we can see today.
During one of our recent road trips through the American Southwest, I took timeout from the audio book I was listening to and shifted my attention toward the landscapes of southern Idaho and Northern Utah. As we made our way south and east toward slopes of the Rocky Mountains it was easy to imagine the road we traveled was on the floor of what was once a vast inland sea. With few exceptions, including the road we traveled, the entire region is unpopulated and unblemished with man made structure.
The geomorphic processes that shaped the land appear to have been recent. On one side of the shallow valley were accordant terraces stretching the length of the valley, forming what was an ancient shore. Above and on the same side was another series of terraces all at a uniform elevation perhaps from an even earlier time when the sea surface was even higher.
On the opposite side of our route there stood more rugged terrain. A sawtoothed ridge-line topped out at about the same elevation as the upper terrace just described above. Alluvial fans descend from the ravines between each peak. The fine sediment, deposited by flowing water over an extended period of geologic time, offer a smooth contrast to the desert landscape and at the same time reveal an ancient climate that was significantly different.
These landscapes tell a story for those curious enough and interested enough to wonder…
Author Gregory S. Lamb earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Geography. He specialized in remote sensing which sparked his interest in pursuing a career in the United States Air Force where he spent the bulk of his operational career flying the U-2 Dragon Lady – High Altitude Reconnaissance aircraft. “From fifteen miles up – the earth’s landscape looks very different.”