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Death Valley's Badwater Basin Water Level Remains Flooded, Leaving Experts Shocked

2 months ago
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In August 2022, Death Valley National Park’s Badwater Basin began filling with water, fed by heavy rains from Hurricane Hilary. This storm brought over 2 inches of rain in a single day to a place that typically sees around 2 inches per year.

The basin, Death Valley lowest point and home to the ancient dry lake bed of Lake Manly, quickly transformed into a shallow lake. Park officials estimated this new body of water would evaporate by late February 2024.

However, additional extreme rainfall fueled by atmospheric rivers has expanded the flooding. NASA satellite images captured the lake's growth from a mostly dry basin in early July 2022 to an expansive area filled with water as recent as early February 2024. With more heavy rain in the forecast, no one knows exactly how long this rare phenomenon will last.

Badwater Basin elevation sits 282 feet below sea level, earning its title as the lowest elevation in North America, and one of the best Death Valley places to visit. The arid climate prevents water from accumulating here for long.

When full, ancient Lake Manly stretched over 700 feet deep across Death Valley. Even temporary flooding turns Badwater Basin water levels into a unique oasis, with stunning mountain reflections in its calm waters. The last notable flooding occurred in 2005 but only lasted about one week.

Recent Years See Increase in Extreme Weather

While Death Valley holds the record for highest air temperature ever recorded, the region relies on low humidity to make the heat tolerable for visitors.

However, climate change drives increases in extreme weather worldwide, and Death Valley park weather is no exception. Beyond more frequent heat waves, the area contended with abnormal tropical rainfall in 2022.

Atmospheric rivers that typically avoid the region have made their way inland recently. These long plumes of moisture fuel massive rain events, which Death Valley witnessed several times in the second half of 2022 through early 2023.

In just six months, the area tallied close to 5 inches of rain compared to the usual 2 inches per year. With more atmospheric rivers forecast in the near future, Death Valley park weather forecasts continued rainfall and flooding.


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