Space & Innovation

See Death Valley's Super Bloom

Death Valley is startlingly full of life right now, in the form of bright desert flowers.

You wouldn't think that the extreme environment of Death Valley - where rain seldom falls, the valley floor is below sea level, and summer temperatures can reach 120 degrees - would be the place to go to see spectacularly colorful displays of wildflowers. But every so often, when conditions are right, it happens. And this year, with an unusually powerful El Niño altering weather patterns, it is one of those times.

For the first time in 11 years, the national park is experiencing what wildflower enthusiasts call a "super bloom," in which millions of colorful flowers dramatically change the look of the desert floor.

A Springtime Trek Through Death Valley

In a press release, the National Park Service explained that a series of storms last October brought unusually heavy rainfall to several areas of the park. In one spot, three inches fell in just five hours, which is more than the two inches that the park typically gets in an entire year. That soaking was followed by more rains over the winter months.

El Niño years, in which there is an unusually warm mass of water in the Pacific, typically cause such shifts in precipitation patterns in Death Valley. The two previous super blooms–in 1998 and 2005–both occurred in years when there was an El Niño.

In early January, the park's wildflower update blog noted that patches of Desert Gold (Geraea canescens) and numerous other flowers were beginning to appear. By mid-month, though, it was obvious that a super bloom was in the works. " The southern end of the park is going crazy with wildflowers," the blog noted.

Mystery of Death Valley's Moving Rocks Solved

Typically, super blooms start in the south, at elevations below 1,000 feet, and then move northward and upwards in elevation in the course of the spring. The bloom in lower elevations is likely to continue at least through mid-March, with flowers at higher elevations possible later in the spring, according to the park service.

See a really cool video showing the suddenly vibrant landscape:

This year, Death Valley is experiencing an unusual super bloom of flowers.

School teacher Jared Ropelato and a friend decided, on a long trek through California and Nevada, to shoot the hottest and driest place in North America. Death Valley National Park, about two hours outside of Las Vegas, attracts photographers from all over the world. Ropelato's best shots are featured in a

new episode

of "

This Happened Here

" on Discovery Digital's new

Seeker Network


VIDEO: This Happened Here: Getting Lost In Death Valley

"Mesquite Dunes is a place I often stop at when heading into Death Valley," Ropelato said. "And it’s so gorgeous as you're driving into the park, its one of the first beautiful, beautiful things you see of many in Death Valley. And it’s hard not to stop, so I always find myself there."

Mystery Of Death Valley's Moving Rocks Solved

A variety of alien landscapes make it a perfect stop for any photo journey.

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"Having hiked into the dunes before the sun started to come up, my goal was to get a nice sunrise shot of the dunes with the mountains in the background. "

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"I got to the tallest one and realized the shot I wanted just wasn’t going to happen, and watched as my friend Micah composed his shots," Ropelato said. "And the longer I sat there and watched him the more I realized the shot that I should take was of him and the dunes, receding back into sort of forever."

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