Weather Notebook
Bryan Yeaton

Pocket Desert
Fri Aug 29, 2003

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Canada's British Columbia Province is well known for its extensive temperate rainforests where annual rainfall often measures in meters. But tucked within its southern Interior, we find an unexpected natural terrain: the Pocket Desert. Hi, I'm Bryan Yeaton for The Weather Notebook.

In the province's South Okanagan region, the Pocket Desert is unique to Canada. The slopes and benchlands of the Osoyoos arid biome form a stark, treeless scrubland of silver and brown.

This, Canada's only desert, lies in the rainshadow of the Cascade Mountains extension, and receives less than four inches of rainfall a year. It boasts the lowest rainfall, highest temperatures, and warmest lakes in our northern neighbor.

Summers scorch in the low-valley bottom, where days often top 100 degrees Fahrenheit, but winters pass comparatively mildly for the latitude, with mean temperatures just below freezing.

In this fragile, endangered region, populations of plants and animals live at the edge of their normal ranges. Animals like: burrowing owls, spadefoot toads, horned lizards, rattlesnakes and scorpions, sagebrush and prickly pear cacti.

Actually, the Pocket Desert is an extension of the Sonoran Desert which stretches from Mexico north to British Columbia's Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Plants and animals are similar to those found at higher elevations in the Mexican desert.

The Pocket Desert Federal Ecological Reserve set aside this unaltered desert in 1921. Over 100 rare plants and animals here are found nowhere else in Canada. You can spot Canada's smallest hummingbird and its largest concentration of Golden Eagles.

Thanks to our contributing writer, meteorologist Keith Heidorn, of Victoria, BC. Our show is funded by Subaru of America, and the National Science Foundation.

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