Sun setting over The Badlands of Death Valley

Salt pan in The Badlands of Death Valley National Park. © Colin Cafferty 2012

Salt pan in The Badlands

“The Badlands” is the name given to a giant salt pan that covers an area of approximately 200 sq miles in Death Valley National Park. Rain falling on surrounding mountains is channelled down deep ravines onto the valley floor where the flood water spreads out and then evaporates under the scorching sun. Minerals which leached out of the mountain rock are then left behind as a thick salt crust which forms a striking pattern of repeating polygons. If you look closely at the image, you can even see individual salt crystals. Although barren now, the entire valley was once covered by a giant lake 600 feet deep (Lake Manly) about 50,000 years ago during an ice age.

Rising sea-levels due to climate change are forecasted to flood coastal land thereby increasing the salinity of the soil and making it unsuitable for agriculture. Tragically, this disproportionately affects low-lying developing countries such as Bangladesh whose people cannot afford to adapt by building flood defences etc.

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