Blog writen by Lucas
Peering out of our tents at 7.30 this morning, we could see the great expanse of the Gobi desert: we were the only humans for kilometers and kilometers, and couldn’t see a single ger as far as the eye could reach.
With our equipment packed up into our jeeps, the strong Mongolian horses tacked up and excitement flowing in the veins of all the Young Explorers, we started our 40km journey across the Gobi . At the beginning, we were travelling at a very slow speed, roughly 3km per hour. We soon realized that travelling at such a slow speed would mean we would arrive at our camp after nightfall, and thus started to wake our horses up and trot a bit.
While we were exploring the Gobi on horseback, we came across flash flood river beds. During heavy thunderstorms, all the water is channeled in these gullies and removes all the vegetation, leaving a barren river bed of rocks. We also noticed that the further we travelled away from the mountains, the drier the landscape became.
Of course we were all glad to see our 5 jeeps and the eating tent as we neared our camp: desperately we needed to rest our sore bottoms, scraped legs and painful muscles. Jokingly, Rosvitha called our diligent horses “torture machines on four legs”, but most of us truly appreciated the effort these animals put in to get us to our destination through wind, sun and sometimes even rain.
The landlocked, continental situation and the high variability in temperature and especially precipitation causes extremes. Heavy rains, snowfall, strong winds, sandstorms, snowstorms, hail, and flooding often bring substantial damages to life and property of Mongolia. There is a clear indication that the frequency and magnitude of natural disasters are increasing due to global climate change.
The average spring precipitation has dropped by 17% during the last 60 years, a fact which has likely contributed to the increased number of fire outbreaks and burned areas in recent springs.
As in most arid environments, precipitation occurs in heavy rain showers and thunderstorms causing a rapid overland flow and no significant increase in soil moisture.
Since the systematic observation (1935) period, serious floods have been observed at Mongolian rivers and caused severe property damages and loss of life. Flash floods in the rural areas are natural phenomena. Experienced herders avoid the river banks during the summer season.
Flash flood is becoming one of the main disasters in Mongolia. About 18 flash flood events were observed from 1996-2003. In October 2003 a flash flood disaster hit Ulaanbaator. The city has only 260 mm/y precipitation, but it still belongs to a heavy flash flood zone. In average 30- 40% of the precipitation is torrential.