Events like the great Dust Bowl of the 1930s, immortalized in "The Grapes of Wrath" and remembered as a transforming event for millions of Americans, were regular parts of much-earlier cycles of droughts followed by recoveries in the region, according to new studies by a multi-institutional research team led by Duke University.
Some of those prehistoric droughts in the northern Great Plains of what is now the United States also lasted longer than modern-day dry spells such as the 1930s Dust Bowl decade, according to sediment core studies by the team.
The groups evidence implies these ancient droughts persisted for up to several decades each. At their heights, prairie fires became uncommon because there was too little vegetation left to burn. The ages of charcoal deposits suggest instead that prairie fires occurred during intervening wet periods, with each wet-dry cycle lasting more than a century each.
Monte Basgall | EurekAlert!
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