California Rains Bring Long-Dead Lake Back to Life in Dry Death Valley


Well, never thought we’d see the day, but climate change has Death Valley, America’s driest spot, ready to host pool parties. Thanks to recent record-smashing rains in California, we’ve got Lake Manly making a dramatic comeback, quenching the desert’s thirst and giving us a poignant reminder that even the seemingly barren can burst with life. It’s giving ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ meets ‘The Mummy Returns’ and we’re here for it. Apparently, the desert’s not a desolate wasteland, she was just waiting for her close-up.

When Death Valley Isn’t So Death-ly

Welcome to Death Valley National Park, where mirage-like lakes have us doing double-takes. Famed for its sweltering summers and arid terrain, spotting miles of water in this parched panorama is a head-scratcher.

Yet, Lake Manly isn’t a trick of the light. This apparition from Death Valley’s past has resurfaced, thanks to record-setting rains washing over California. The once-dry lakebed of Badwater Basin, North America’s lowest point, is now a testament to our changing climate.

Visitors, park rangers, and scientists alike are reveling at this rare phenomenon. Beyond its barren reputation, the desert is a dynamic ecosystem – vibrant and complex. Just like an uncommon desert super bloom, Lake Manly’s return is a powerful declaration: Death Valley is full of life.

“This is the desert announcing its vitality,” says Mason Voehl, of the Amargosa Conservancy. Crowds have flocked to the park since the latest rainstorm in early February, setting new attendance records. The park’s roads have been filled with cars, and the entrance to the lake has been overrun with sightseers.

With its towering Panamint Mountains reflected in the placid, shallow waters, Lake Manly paints a picture of the extremes of Death Valley. Though it may dry up as the weather warms, the lake’s fleeting presence has stirred excitement, attracting visitors nationwide.

Lake Manly gives us a glimpse into Death Valley’s ancient past, back when the prehistoric lake covered a large part of the valley. As the climate changed and became harsher, the lake vanished, but the resilient flora and fauna adapted and flourished.

From its initial lack of interest, the National Park Service eventually recognized Death Valley’s unique beauty. Once considered a mere sandbox, the region has captured the fascination of a new generation of visitors, thanks to Lake Manly’s spectacular reappearance.

The Dramatic Climate Switch

In early 2022, Death Valley was in the grip of one of the worst megadroughts in recent history. Fast forward to August, when Hurricane Hilary hit, causing the wettest day ever recorded in Death Valley, which revived Lake Manly.

These sudden climate shifts have scientists awestruck. Naomi Fraga, from the California Botanic Garden, describes the experience of kayaking on Lake Manly as otherworldly. Despite the stunning beauty, the revival of Lake Manly serves as a stark reminder of the increasing frequency and intensity of atmospheric rivers caused by climate change.

Voehl, grappling with the paradox of catastrophic climate trends creating such beauty, believes that moments like these serve to remind us of nature’s transcendent power. “There’s going to be a lot of firsts in our lifetime. The majority are going to be kind of terrifying, and a handful of them — like this — are going to be pretty extraordinary,” he says.

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