LOGAN Washout . . . Traffic reduced to one lane as a section
of the highway is being repaired . . .
On the road in the American Northwest.
Climate Chaos . . .
Higher temperatures (an increase of 1.5 F. in the Northwest
over the last 100 years), earlier mountain springs and shorter
winters, with less precipitation, and less of that falling as snow.
All are evidently features of long-term climate change.
Less predictable, however, are extreme weather events.
That is, less predictable in terms of when and where they will
strike. That they will strike is a relatively certain feature of what
I think of as degenerative chaos, ie., a type of chaos that tends
to destroy—and not create—already established balances
In November of 2006 Glacier National Park and the famous
Logan Going-to-the-Sun-Road were hit hard by such an extreme
weather event. A record nine inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period.
Normally, in a mountain environment, even in September and
October, rain would fall as snow at the higher elevations.
Instead, it fell as a hyperintense rainstorm, washing out sections
of the road. This is precisely the type of storm that is terrorizing
parts of the European Alps. In August of 1987 I was camped
in Switzerland at 1600 meters when such a storm hit. I'll never
forget the experience. It was as if it were the end of world. Huge
boulders came thundering down the steeply-walled valley from
the highest ridges, and by morning, the road to a nearby village
was totally washed out. The Swiss quickly called it understandably
The Storm of the Century. But by now similar events have
repeated themselves so many times that this no longer
By way of footnote, the photo above does allow one to ponder
the fact that—the impatience of waiting automobilists as Logan
traffic is reduced to a single lane notwithstanding—some 2 1/2
million cars pass through Glacier every year. And that cars are
certainly, in my view, a primary cause of the remarkable
acceleration of the loss of the once great ice fields for which
the park was named. In German, a beautiful expression for glaciers
is Ewig Eis, or eternal ice. It certainly ought to stop more than mere
tourist traffic to witness eternity melt in front of our children's eyes.
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