Physical Geography

The role of the physical environment in issues of geographical significance

ARkStorm Fears Recede in California Despite Flooding; Anomalous Lack of Rain-Shadowing Explained by Weather West

Fears of an impending ARkStorm in California have receded, although much of the state has been receiving prodigious amounts of rainfall and the forecast remains wet for the next 10 days. In the most recent storm, the heaviest rains have fallen in the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas, northwest of Los Angeles. The map posted below shows total precipitation amounts of up to 14 inches in a 24-hour period; other reports indicate that a few areas have received more than 18 inches. As would be expected, floods and mudslides have hit the region, causing considerable damage and taking… – Read More

Should California Be Bracing for a Possible ARkStorm?

The storm currently hitting California has not produced as much precipitation as was anticipated, irritating some Weather West readers (see yesterday’s post) while reducing flood concerns for the present. But the forecast remains extremely wet over the next week and beyond. As the maps posted below show, rain in the lowlands and snow in the mountains could fall in prodigious quantities, which would probably cause extensive flooding (note the 256 inches of snow over roughly two weeks forecasted on one of the maps posted below). If the current seven-day forecast verifies, and if the wet pattern remains entrenched… – Read More

The Political Regions of Europe and the Fallacy of Environmental Determinism

Europe Political Orientation MapGeoCurrents reader Rafael Ferrero-Aprato recently brought to my attention an interesting map of political divisions in Europe made by the Dutch electoral geographer Josse de Voogd and reproduced by The Economist in 2014. Josse de Voogd notes the difficulties and limitations in making a map of this sort: “Some countries [are covered] in much greater detail than others and there are lots of political parties that are difficult to place ideologically. The information comes from a wide range of resources over a long time-span.” In general… – Read More

Eco-Authoritarian Catastrophism: The Dismal and Deluded Vision of Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

(Note: The following post strays from the usual geopolitical concerns of GeoCurrents into the realm of environmental politics. It also deviates from the norm in being a polemical review of a particular book. Regular posts will resume shortly.)

UnknownAs with so many other hot-button debates, the climate change controversy leaves me repelled by the clamoring extremists on both sides. Global-warming denialists, as some are aptly called, regard the scientific establishment with such contempt that they abandon the realm of reason. In comment after comment posted on on-line articles and blogs… – Read More

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten: An Island Divided

(Note: Today’s post is by Claire Negiar, a Stanford senior, soon to graduate. Claire will be writing a few posts over the coming weeks, many of them focused on France and French dependencies.)

Saint Martin. Sint Maarten. A crossroad between North and South, split between France and the Netherlands, Saint Martin has known a different fate in the aftermath of decolonization than most other Caribbean islands. Although the European colonial powers of Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and even some of the Nordic nations usually battled it out for sovereignty over Carribbean islands in long back-and-forths, on the island… – Read More

Australia’s Climatic Anomalies

(Having just returned from a family trip to Australia, I feel compelled to muse over a few Australian topics over the next few days….).

In the various indices of the world’s “most livable cities,” those of Australia generally rank quite high. In the Economist Intelligence Unit‘s (EIU) most recent global liveability report, Melbourne places first, Adelaide fifth, Sydney seventh, and Perth ninth. The EIU index does not consider climate; if it did, Sydney would probably rank higher. What constitutes an ideal climate is of… – Read More

Indo-Australian Plate Rent Asunder Beneath the Ocean

In April 2012, two massive earthquakes hit northern Sumatra. The earthquakes—one of magnitude 8.2 and the other 8.6—were far in excess of what one would expect to encounter many miles from a tectonic plate boundary. Indeed, “strike-slip earthquakes”, where pieces of crust rub against each other laterally, had been completely unknown in the area before the two quakes. – Read More

Extreme Salt Lakes Around the World

The world has many famous salt lakes. Central Asia’s Caspian and Aral Seas, alongside the Dead Sea between Jordan and Israel, are perhaps the best known. Utah’s Great Salt Lake and California’s Mono Lake and Salton Sea are also by no means obscure. These bodies of water are all fascinating in their own right, but by the standards of the world’s “hypersaline lakes”, they are amateurs. In fact, the world’s most extreme salt lakes are to be found not in a hot Afro-Eurasian desert… – Read More

Visualizing California’s Soggy Past

A previous GeoNote highlighted a collaborative effort to map historical changes in California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin RiverDelta. In a similar spirit, the fantasy satellite map shown at left, created by Central Valley geographer Mark Clark and noted by Frank Jacobs, imagines what the entire state might have looked like in 1851. Perhaps the map’s most salient feature is massive Tulare Lake, which dominates the Southern San Joaquin valley. Tulare Lake, now completely dry in… – Read More

And the World’s Rainiest Place Is???

A recent GeoNote stressed the impossibility of accurately measuring the coastlines of countries, owing to the intricacies of fractal geometry. But even without fractal complications, many basic geographical measurements are difficult if not impossible to specify. “What is the rainiest place on earth?” seems like a simple question, but it is not.

One problem with determining the world’s wettest place is the highly specific nature of precipitation patterns in many rainy areas. Extremely rainy paces… – Read More

Yakutia’s Mir Mine: The World’s Largest Hole?

A number of websites provide lists of the “world’s largest holes,” most of which are gargantuan open-pit mines (given the realities of the internet, several of these sites are quasi-pornographic). Although the actual lists differ, several put Russia’s Mir diamond mine, located in Yakutia (Sakha Republic) in the first position. The Wikipedia article on the mine claims that it is actually “the second largest excavated hole in the world, after Bingham Canyon Mine.” But if Bingham Canyon is larger, Mir is much steeper, and… – Read More

The Pleistocene Great Lakes of Western North America

Several recent GeoNotes on lakes and their islands mentioned only currently existing lakes. If one goes back into the Pleistocene epoch, however, the situation was very different. 18,000 years ago, some of the world’s largest lakes were located in the Great Basin of western North America. Today, only remnants exist, although several, most notably Utah’s Great Salt Lake, are still substantial. Note that Lake Lahontan contained a huge island, which itself contained several smaller lakes.

The presence of these Pleistocene lakes was due much… – Read More

Mapping Loess Soils in Europe

The distribution of loess has played a significant role in human history. These fertile, easily worked soils provided the agricultural foundation for several early civilizations. Chinese culture originated in the Loess Plateau and adjacent areas of the North China Plain (itself formed from eroded, river-deposited loess), and Neolithic farmers in Europe mostly cultivated loess, avoiding heavier soils for millennia. Even today, loess areas tend to be highly productive farming centers. As a result of this importance, the mapping of loess is a well-advanced project. A 2007 Centre… – Read More

Lakes on Islands in Lakes: Toba and Taal in Indonesia and the Philippines

For those interested in geographical superlatives pertaining to islands and lakes, Elburz.org has an interesting list, beginning with the world largest island (Greenland) and largest lake (Caspian Sea). It continues with the largest lake on an island (Nettilling Lake on Baffin Island in Canada), the largest island in a lake (Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron in Canada), the largest island in a lake on an island (Samosir in Lake Toba on Sumatra in Indonesia), the largest lake on an island in a lake (Lake Manitou on Manitoulin Island… – Read More

René-Levasseur: The World’s Second Largest Island in a Lake?

The Wikipedia’s list of the world’s largest islands in lake has some intriguing features. Four of the top seven positions are occupied by islands in North America’s Great Lakes: Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron (or Lake Michigan-Huron, which is actually a single lake), Isle Royale in Lake Superior, St. Joseph Island in Lake Huron, and Drummond Island, also in Lake Huron.

While Manitoulin is clearly the world’s largest lake island, the second position entails some ambiguity. Until the turn of the millennium… – Read More