For 68 of 82 original sample sites, with the help of a GPS and maps and field notes, the scientists collected sand from within just a few meters of the original samples.
Their typical days involved getting up with the sun, says Nichols, eating a quick breakfast at a lodge, programming the GPS with the day's route, and driving off in their diesel four-by-four truck.
One day they left the lodge at 7 a.m., drove 700 or more kilometers, and finally collected their last samples using headlamps just before 7 p.m. Then, by dark of night across deserted Namib "roads," they drove 170 kilometers back to the lodge.
"As we were packing samples to ship home from Windhoek, Namibia's capital," says Bierman, "we watched the predictions as Hurricane Irene marched up the eastern U.S."
By the time Bierman had travelled 36 hours and arrived home in Vermont, and Nichols back in upstate N.Y., the region was reeling from the worst flooding since the epic floods of November, 1927.
"This could all be coincidence, but it's hard not to think that something's up with the weather," says Bierman. "A warming Earth equals a more intense hydrologic cycle, with repercussions for erosion rates, sediment redistribution and landscape evolution."
The riverbeds of western Namibia, land of arid deserts, are awash in water.
At least for now.
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation