When it rains in a desert

I’m currently sitting in a desert. Mendoza, in Argentina, gets about 230mm of rain a year. In February it should get around 38mm. Without irrigation it would just be dry dusty scrub. With irrigation it is a wonderful place to grow grapes. In satellite photos it appears to be a patchwork of green squares on a dusty yellow background.

This February has been very wet — we’re likely to have 50mm today and the same again tomorrow, and it rained hard last week too. I’ve no idea if this is climate change or if we’re just heading towards the edges of the bell curve.

It certainly is causing things to break though. Roofs leak, roads flood, dirt tracks turn to mud, ditches overflow, exposed electrics short out. The buildings are hilariously poorly designed for this sort of weather. At the local supermarket the gutters (which are a rare thing here) don’t have down pipes, they just bring all the water to one place and then let it fall, which happens to be just outside the main entrance.

I say it is hilarious as I also live in Wales, UK. There we could have 50mm of rain in a morning and still have time for a sunny afternoon. The roofs are steep, gutters gather the rain and get it away from buildings. People own wet weather gear and wellies.

So are the Mendoceneans inept with their demonstrably bad infrastructure? No, of course not. If Wales was to have just a few days of the sun and heat that are common here things would fall apart. The roads would probably literally melt. Those steep black slate roofs would become incredibly hot. Livestock would require extra water brought to them. Gardens would wither. There might even, shock horror, have to be a hosepipe ban.

This is what happens in the UK each time it snows properly. Roads are not cleared and cars slither around. Schools and airports close. The media wrings its hands and talks about the disastrous national economic impact whilst delighting in photos of children on sleds.

Instead the UK should deal with snow like the locals here deal with rain. Catch the leaks and then wait for the sun to come out again and dry it all up, exactly like the weather in the UK gets warmer and melts it all away. Sure it is a pain whilst it’s happening, but it is so rare that the investment needed to deal with it simply makes no sense. Work from home, or go sledding, or in cities enjoy the quiet and go for a walk down deserted streets.

Here in Argentina there’s just not the wealth to even consider improving the infrastructure. In the UK there is the money and it does get spent, but I can’t help but feel that it’s largely wasted.

Better to just muddle through and mop up the mess. And not grumble. This too shall pass.

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