Atmosphere

The Dry Dry Earth of Home

It would be nice to think of water soaking into the soil, and all that ground below us being recharged with rain and draining down to the lake and cycling around.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board Draws a Picture About Water

It would be nice to imagine irrigating the land, with roots sunk deep into that beautiful, cool stuff.

It would be nice, but it’s not true. This is true.

Just metres from the vineyard above, a gravel pit on the farm shows what water is really doing on the land: it sinks in about 40 centimetres, and then flows downhill with gravity, without going deeper. At the same time, the foreground debris slope catches water, which doesn’t go upward into the soil. Instead, it evaporates away, leaving a line of salt. In other words, the soil is acting like a dry atmosphere. We are looking at a cloud system, in other words.

We are looking at pressure regimes, not “soil,” and not flowing water. Now, if we were to think of all water as flowing, we could easily draw a map like this:

If you look at it, you will see lots of red squiggles of water mysteriously evaporating into the sky, from which it falls again as rain and snow. Those red squiggles are not part of the story of this map. They signify evaporation, and a deficit to the valley water supply, and that’s it: evaporation strikes wind, makes cloud, and falls back down. Nice, eh. Look again at the zones within the soil profile I showed you above:

With bee nests, those creatures of the air. Note that they wouldn’t be here if there weren’t air.

These layers were laid down by rivers flowing along glacial ice long ago.

But look at them now, right where my winter soil profile image was taken. 

Here, a little closer. See that line of salt running along? 

That’s the base of the wet soil above. You could call it the bottom of the sky:

The rest of the soil is dry. In the soil, dryness moves and directs water. That means that this is a story of dryness. Water is secondary here, and not the most powerful. We sure could use a map that connected the pressure regimes below the soil with the ones above. The gravity maps of water that would enable better planning, and would help to avoid the upcoming social war over water. The good news is that the land is showing us. The water is there for all to see.

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