The RV might be winterized and staying put until the spring thaw, but we're not. Now that I have the all clear from my cardiologist, my wife and are are planning a 20-day trip to Morocco. It'll be the first time that either of us has set foot on the African continent: With its French colonial influence and their King's tourist-friendly policies, it seems like a great place to dip our toes in the continent's waters.
Plus, it's cities, country side deserts and mountains are absolutely stunning. With out tickets purchased, we're now in the throes of planning our itinerary (which we always tend to keep a bit loosey-goosey.) I'm brushing up on my mediocre French. My partner is taking Darija lessons. I'm taking a HEAT course to polish up my already existing skill set, given that Morocco's neighbors have been a little rambunctious of late.
Perhaps most important out of all of our preparations, is the fact that my travel playlist is slowly coming together. I find that having the right music while moving into and out of an adventure helps to set the mood for the whole thing.
Tinariwen is a band that's been around for decades. Maybe you've heard of them. They only showed up as a ping on my radar within the last year. originally hails from Mali,
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Tinariwen is a group of Tuareg musicians from the Sahara Desert region of northern Mali. The band was formed in 1979 in Tamanrasset, Algeria, but returned to Mali after a cease-fire in the 1990s.
Like most salt flats, Salinas Grande in Argentina has a short but glorious window where the skies open and deluge the desert with a thin layer of water. El Tribuno de Jujuy captured this lovely drone footage of the phenomenon. Read the rest
With snowpack disappearing and desertification expanding globally, the Global Warming Riders are making the best of a bad situation and shredding some challenging dunes. Read the rest
The Dying Of The Light is a project shot by sfdrones.tv in the nighttime desert, but with a spotlight so bright that it reaches the intensity of daylight. Read the rest
The fine folks at Super Deluxe mounted a camera on a train traveling through the desert, and it's as relaxing and scenic as it sounds. Read the rest
Sometimes, the simplest idea makes a great video. Case in point: the fine folks at Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory dropped a GoPro into a bucket of water, to the delight of creatures great and small. Read the rest
There’s a move to redefine “homesteading” in a way that makes it available to anyone who wants to take part. But what does it mean to homestead in the desert? By Reanna Alder
National Geographic calls Ethiopia's Danakil Depression "the cruelest place on Earth." It's a desert wasteland, where temperatures can push past 120 F, where ancient and current lava flows impede movement, and where water is so scarce that that people build rock domes over the top of volcanic vents to trap and condense steam.
It's also a place where Ethiopian men and boys regularly travel in order to cut slabs of salt off of the surface of the Earth and haul them back to civilization. Salt flats like this occur when entire bodies of water totally evaporate. In the Danakil Depression, you'll also find salt towers and other formations caused by evaporation off of volcanic geysers and hot springs.
The photo above was taken by Reuters photographer Siegfried Modola, who traveled with a group of salt miners into the desert and then followed their haul all the way back to the marketplace. You can see his full slideshow of images online. I chose this one because it gives you a view of the salt as it's found on the ground, and the neat, rectangular blocks the merchants cut it into for shipping.
The spot is a favorite of photographers. I'd also recommend checking out the photos and story put together by Christina Feldt, who posted about the Danakil salt flats earlier this year. Read the rest
On Monday, I posted about an incredibly fascinating study linking the minerals that fertilize the Amazon rainforest to a specific corner of the Sahara desert in the country of Chad. That lake of sand—once an actual lake the size of California—is what keeps the Amazon green and verdant.
The interesting thing is that the study is actually not anything new. It came out in 2006. I heard about it from science writer Colin Schultz. Earlier this week, Colin went on News Talk 610 CKTB out of Niagara Falls, Ontario, to talk about how he stumbled across the study and why it's important far beyond simply connecting the desert and the jungle.
The interview delves into the subject in a lot more depth. In fact, it's a great demonstration of how reading a single research paper can be interesting, but doesn't necessarily give you the full picture of what's actually going on in science. Turns out, what we know about how dust travels to the Amazon has important implications for how we think about climate change and geoengineering. Also great: Colin comparing the volume of dust traveling from the Sahara to the volume of several Honda Civics. It's short, and very much worth listening to.
You can follow Colin Schultz on Twitter. BTW: He'd like you to know that when he says "bioengineers" in the interview, he means "geoengineers".
• A 2010 Nature News article on the connection between the Sahara and the Amazon.
• Geophysical Research Letters on changes in dust transport over time. Read the rest
This is probably the most amazing thing I learned all weekend. The Amazon rainforest—with all its plant and animal life, and all its astounding biodiversity—could not exist as we know it without the patch of African desert pictured above.
The rainforest is amazing, but the soil it produces isn't very nutrient rich. All the minerals and nutrients that fertilize the rainforest have to come from someplace else. Specifically: Africa. Scientists have known for a while that this natural fertilizer is crossing the Atlantic in the form of dust storms, but science writer Colin Schultz ran across a 2006 paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters that not only produces evidence for a much larger trans-oceanic transfer of dust than was previously assumed ... it also pinpoints the exact (and astoundingly small) location where all the fertilizer in the Amazon is coming from.
The research paper, itself, is pleasantly readable, as far as these things go, so I'm going to quote directly from it. One quick note before I launch into this quote. The authors are measuring the mass of the dust in teragrams (or Tg). As you're trying to wrap your head around this, it might be helpful to know that 1 Tg = 1 million tons.
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A total of 140 (± 40) Tg is deposited in the Atlantic ocean and 50 (± 15) Tg reach and fertilize the Amazon basin. This is four times an older estimate, explaining a paradox regarding the source of nutrients to the Amazon forest. Swap et al suggested that while the source for minerals and nutrients in the Amazon is the dust from Africa, it was estimated that only 13 Tg of dust per year actually arrive in the Amazon.