Jenny Ross has a fascinating new paper suggesting we reconsider the story we all thought we knew about the formation of the Salton Sea:
It is widely thought that the Salton Sea was created accidentally in 1905-07 because of engineering negligence in the diversion of Colorado River water for agricultural use in California’s Imperial Valley. This is a misconception. Scientific data and historical records establish that formation of the Salton Sea was not accidental. The lake formed during 1905-07 in the same manner that numerous other large Salton Basin lakes did for at least tens of thousands of years from the Late Pleistocene through the late 19th century: as a result of the lower Colorado River’s natural hydrodynamic regime, floodplain morphodynamics, and established avulsion style in combination with changes in streamflow attributable to regional hydroclimate. A large body of scientific and historical evidence indicates the 1905-07 Colorado River flooding into the Salton Basin and the creation of a large lake there would have occurred regardless of man-made modifications to the river’s natural levee and distributary channels. In fact, the flooding would likely have been even worse in the absence of human intervention.
I love it when the stuff we thought we knew turns out to maybe be wrong!