Carved By Wind And Water

21st Century problem: No WiFi on the flight back! In 1985 I was smart enough to carry magazines and newspapers on a plane trip.

Helaine and I flew to Chicago this weekend to see my nephew Matt marry Hannah. The wedding was beautiful. The sentiment sweet.

It was a quick trip — LAX-MDW Saturday, MDW-LAX Monday. We were in Chicago under 48 hours and used Lyft where once we would have rented a car.

21st Century problem: No WiFi on the flight back!

In 1985 I was smart enough to carry magazines and newspapers on a plane trip. Today I depend on my laptop or phone to while away the time. I lifted the shade and looked out the window.

Midway is built into a neighborhood. You fly in-and-out over rooftops. It’s a head scratcher in 2018. Short runways. Every square inch occupied. It’s bursting at the seams.

I watched carefully as we headed over Nebraska. You can tell you’re getting close when you begin seeing circular fields, a product of pivot irrigation. Things begin to spread out. There are 23.8 people per square mile in Nebraska (with the majority of that being in the east). In Illinois it’s 230 ppl/mi2 and in New Jersey it’s 1,195 ppl/mi2. Homes are like remote outposts within the intricate pattern of mainly harvested fields.

This is where you begin the see the stark effects of wind and water. The few trees out here grow near rivers and streams. What’s easy to miss from the ground but unmistakable from the air are the large flood plains surrounding many of these lazy rivers.

It’s taken thousands of thousand year floods to make this happen!

We started to see the Rockies not long after we left Nebraska. Many of the higher peaks are already snow covered. From the 31,000 feet ski areas look like scarred mountains. I guess they actually are. Treeless trails down these slopes don’t come naturally.

East of the Rockies is desert. There’s no water to be seen, but where it goes when it’s there is pretty obvious. Deserts often get their sparse rainfall all-at-once. Deeply cut canyons rut the sides of any raised surface.

It’s desolate as we fly over Nevada. Who could live here? And then every once in a while hidden away in the boring nothingness you’ll see a road and a lone home or two.

We left Chicago at 3:10 pm, cruising around 500 mph. Sunset was heading the same direction at twice our speed. Evening shadows moved half as quickly and lasted twice as long.

As is often the case at LAX we landed with another plane off to our left on a parallel runway.

9 thoughts on “Carved By Wind And Water”

  1. Thanks Geoff ,
    Your photos are just amazing !!!!!!! Thanks for sharing . No need for a phone or laptop when you
    had that view . You being a weather person , you must have gotten so much more than meets the
    eye on the flight home than we would have
    thanks again , Linda

    1. They’d better be! This is the product of pivot irrigation. The entire watering system runs on wheels and rotates across the field. Pivot irrigation has increased yields, but also increased summertime humidity in the corn growing region of the Plains.

      From USAToday:

      During the growing season, an acre of corn sweats off about 3,000 to 4,000 gallons of water each day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. In Iowa, corn pumps out “a staggering 49 to 56 billion gallons of water into the atmosphere each day” throughout the state, the National Weather Service said.

  2. Only through the eyes of a Meteorologist! Aweome pictorial to go with my morning coffee, Geoff. Not to mention the enlightenment. I’d never heard of pivot irrigation and the canyons in the desert. I love the shot of the airplane on your left as you’re landing. Super job. Thanks!
    Bev J.

  3. The pictures you took are wonderful! I lived in Connecticut for the first 65 years of my life and now live in North Carolina. For the last 20 years I’ve been flying out to Arizona every couple of years to visit my cousin and am always glued to the window ( I always go for the window seat). I am amazed and awed by all I see when I travel. Why go anywhere else when there is so so much to see in our beautiful country! Glad you two had a good trip. Stay well Geoff!

  4. thanks for sharing. beautiful pictures. I visited CA quite a few times in the 80’s and enjoyed looking out the window.

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