Carving Mountains and Ruining Picnics: The Power of Rain

"It's just that simple," Furbish says.

The finding may not be particularly startling, but it adds a bit more to our understanding of the dynamics of one of earth's most common processes. And that, the scientists say, could be important down the road.

It may help in the development of new strategies in the prevention of soil erosion. Sometimes it doesn't take a lot to make a big difference.

Furbish notes that back in the 1930s farmers frequently planted their crops in rows that went up and down slopes. But after the dust bowl hit, stripping the land of precious top soil, the Department of Agriculture came up with a suggestion.

Don't plant crops with furrows running up and down the slope. Instead, make the furrows run parallel to the contour.

"When the rain produced surface runoff, instead of moving down slope easily in the furrows, it was captured by the furrows," Furbish says. "So simply by encouraging the farmers to do contour plowing the impact was huge."

The latest research isn't going to end erosion, the scientists say.

But now scientists have "a more careful understanding of the rain splash part of the process," Furbish adds.

Now, if they can just figure out how to shut the whole process down before the picnic gets drowned out.

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