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Tomorrow's Superstorms May Speed Erosion
Wood September 29, 2006
Rainstorms 50 to 100 years from now may be more intense and more
frequent than today's, and may pack more soil-eroding power.
Stormwaters running off landscapesorchards, vineyards, even
hilly backyards or parklandscould increase by a worrisome 20 to 30
percent in some parts of America, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Arizona and their
colleagues have estimated. In turn, the runoff might wash away 25 to 50 percent
more soil, the researchers' experiments suggest.
Nearing, a soil scientist who heads the ARS
Watershed Research Center in Tucson, Ariz., collaborated with other experts
from the United States and abroad to develop these projections. The scientists
ran climate data from the past century through seven leading mathematical
models to get a glimpse of what might be ahead for erosion-prone farms and
ranches of the American Southwest and other sites here and overseas.
Scientists based the estimates on an array of factors, including the
presumption that the U.S. climate trends of the past 100 yearsand farming
practiceswill continue along the same lines, according to Nearing.
Researchers can use these findings and others to get a better idea of the
possible soil-erosion consequences of global climate change. That foundation
could lead to better ways to protect vulnerable topsoil from the erosive force
of tomorrow's thunderstorms.
more about the study in the September 2006 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.