Ambercat: A superior climate proxy to Amberat?

One of the tools to reconstruct climate history in the Great Basin and North America Deserts (Mojave, Sonoran, etc.) are packrat middens. From the Wikipedia article on packrat middens:

Pack rats are known for their characteristic searching of materials to bring back to their nests creating an ever expanding collection known as a “midden” for its messiness. In natural environments, the middens are normally built out of sticks in rock crevices or caves for protection from predators. In the absence of crevices or caves, the middens are often built under trees or bushes. The pack rats will also use plant fragments, animal dung and small rocks in building the nest. The vast majority of the materials will be from a radius of several dozen yards of the nest. The pack rats urinate in the midden; sugar and other substances in the urine crystallizes as it dries out, creating a material known as amberat, cementing the midden together.

There are some amusing (or sickening, depending on how black your humors are) tales of Anglo explorers eating amberat, supposing it was some sort of desert bounty. After a couple of days (really) they quickly they were mistaken. shudder

Previously unexamined, perhaps because century- and millennial- depth deposits are seldom, if ever, allowed to accumulate, are the feline urine cemented deposits of ambercat that occur in cat litter boxes. Judging from the rapidity and volume that can be generated in geologically insignificant timescales (24 – 36 hours with multiple felines contributing to the ‘midden’) these proxies could be valuable for climatic reconstruction if deposits could be identified prior to the radiocarbon ‘recent.’

Absent its scientific value, I would personally be overjoyed to discover that ambercat had some sort of commercial value as our felines are apparently ‘top producers’ of ambercat, indeed in commercially viable quantities. I await your offers. There is a bagged sample at the curb right now.

It is HOT Here

It reached an official 110°F (43°C) at 3:56 pm today. We are in the third day of several consecutive days of an extreme heat watch in southern Nevada. “Extreme Heat” is triggered by temps in excess of 112°F (44.4°C), so you can easily do the ‘reality of the situation’ math.

‘Unofficially’ at 3 pm it reached 111.8°F at the CEMP station near UNLV.

It’s reaching 115+°F (46°C) unofficially.

Midnight Oil has nothing on us when they say “The western desert lives and breathes In forty five degrees” in Beds are Burning.


Audrey is in Germany for four weeks dissertating and I have sympathy for her having solo parent duties whilst I was in Tejas for a coupla weeks. Great Ghu, I do not know how single-parents (they are frequently typically single-moms!) do it.

Seven and a half years old is hard to keep up with, much less guide! (Herd? Keep from hurting themselves or you?) Blah, blah, youth is wasted on the young, etc.

We are going to go watch them feed the sharks at the Museum tomorrow as well as doing some piano practice and math drills. BTW, speaking of math and music, today’s NOVA looks interesting!

Some part of those sharks eating pianos or something should keep a therapist in new vacation homes and Jaguars some 30 years hence I’m guessing… (HHOS) Don’t worry, I’m a parent, it’s my job to implant those hereditary neuroses .

It is already way to GD hot here. Officially (as in, they admit to the figure) today it was 108°F (that’s 42°C to the rest of the world) with the promise that ‘summer will be here soon!’ Bah. This is not Groundhog Day, this is Groundhog Climate! Or something. That really didn’t have the ‘punch’ I had hoped for… Oh well, it’s hot. Again. Or is that, ‘still?’

“I know it couldn’t have been this hot last year because I would have moved away.”

Bzzt, thanks for playing, Mister Man. California has earthquakes, the Plains has tornadoes and *snow.* The Gulf coast has hurricanes, the rest of the country has *Winter*, and the Southwest melts your lead fishing weights in your tackle box into one big, ugly mass. You pays your money and takes your climatic medicine. March in the southern Mojave will be tempered by the harsh reality of July in the Mojave. Same goes for the Sonoran, except they have that humidity stuff when the Monsoons come. 6 of one… The snow-birds cheat by running away.

To complain is to cast your vote for survival. Yeah, that’s the ticket…

links for 2009-01-12

  • “A team of scientists exploring Springs Preserve with remote-sensing gear [Ground Penetrating Radar –ed.] has found what appears to be a prehistoric village of pit houses where as many as 30 Anasazi people lived about 1,300 years ago, the preserve’s archaeologist said Friday.” This is the full version of the ‘breaking news’ version I just posted.
    This is the project I was the archaeologist for from 2000 – 2005. We dug the pit house that yielded the radiocarbon dates.
  • "A team of scientists exploring Springs Preserve with remote-sensing gear have found what is believed to be a prehistoric village of pit houses where as many as 30 Anasazi lived about 1,300 years ago, the preserve's archaeologist said Friday."
    I was the archaeologist at the Springs from 2000 – 2005. We dug the partially excavated pit house they reference in 2003.

Snow in Las Vegas

For the second day in a row, no less!

This is looking west from Wright Hall on the UNLV campus about 3 p.m.

And this is looking east from Wright Hall on the UNLV campus, also about 3 p.m. It might not look like much snow to you, but just to the west, there were inches! INCHES!! Needless to say the usually incompetent Las Vegas drivers regressed even further. I counted 17 fender benders on the way home.

BLM Will Not Lease Drilling Parcels Near Arches, Canyonlands

Mostly good news…

BLM Will Not Lease Drilling Parcels Near Arches, Canyonlands: In the face of
intense opposition from the National Park Service, members of Congress and a top
official from President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, the U.S. Bureau of
Land Management backed down Tuesday from its plan to sell oil and gas leases
near national parks and wilderness-quality areas in Utah on Dec. 19.
[Southwest Archaeology Making the News – A Service of the Center for Desert
Southwest Archaeology Today is a service provided by the Center for Desert
Archaeology to provide current news about topics in archaeology, history and
historic preservation in the American Southwest and Mexican Northwest.
Back issues of Southwest Archaeology Today are available at:]

But if only 22 out of “more than 90” ‘sensitive’ leases were affected, what about the other 68+ leases you ask?

“It’s still a disaster in the making,” said Steve Bloch, an attorney for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. “Parcels [that Park Service officials] said were important are still on [the sale list]. That seems a pretty clear indication the Park Service was rolled by someone higher up in the administration.” [1]

Predictably, Mike Snyder, director of NPS’ Intermountain region said they were not “rolled.”

Snyder denied Bloch’s claim. “We got no pressure from the administration. None,” he said. “I got support to do what was best for the parks.” [1]

And if you believe that, I’ve got some property outside of Las Vegas you might be interested in…

Maize May Have Been Domesticated In Mexico As Early As 10,000 Years Ago

Things just keep getting pushed back…

Maize (Corn) May Have Been Domesticated In Mexico As Early As 10,000 Years Ago [Science Daily]

The ancestors of maize originally grew wild in Mexico and were radically different from the plant that is now one of the most important crops in the world. While the evidence is clear that maize was first domesticated in Mexico, the time and location of the earliest domestication and dispersal events are still in dispute.

Now, in addition to more traditional macrobotanical and archeological remains, scientists are using new genetic and microbotanical techniques to distinguish domesticated maize from its wild relatives as well as to identify ancient sites of maize agriculture. These new analyses suggest that maize may have been domesticated in Mexico as early as 10,000 years ago.

Dr. John Jones and his colleagues, Mary Pohl, and Kevin Pope, have evaluated multiple lines of evidence, including paleobotanical remains such as pollen, phytoliths, and starch grains, as well as genetic analyses, to reconstruct the early history of maize agriculture. Dr. Jones, of the Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman, will be presenting this work at a symposium on Maize Biology at the annual meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists in Mérida, Mexico (June 28, 2008). [more]

links for 2008-05-13

  • is a national, grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing, preserving and protecting America’s roadless public lands. Today there are Broads of all ages and both genders in every state in the union making their voices heard to protect America’s last wild places.