Kayaking in Death Valley? Huge lake emerges in one of Earth's driest places after record rainfall

Paddleboarders making use of the temporary lake that has formed in Death Valley. Credit: AP

Record rainfall is giving people the chance to kayak in one of the driest places on Earth.

In the past six months, Death Valley has received more than double its annual rainfall amount, replenishing Lake Manly.

As a result, Badwater Basin has been transformed giving people the "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity to splash about in what is usually a parched bright white salt flat.

The region is notorious for being incredibly hot and humid - temperatures of 54C and above have only been recorded on Earth a handful of times, most of them in Death Valley.

In a typical year Death Valley receives about two inches of rainfall, in the past six months it has recorded more than 4.9 inches.

'If it's not once-in-a-lifetime, it's nearly'

A series of storms have brought more than double the parks annual rainfall in the past six months. Credit: AP

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet (85.95 metres) below sea level. It is a favourite spot for tourists to take selfies and walk along the white salt flats ringed by sandy-coloured mountains.

“It’s the lowest point, in North America. So it’s going to collect water, but to have as much water as we have now - and for it to be as deep and lasting as long as it has - this is extremely uncommon,” park ranger Nichole Andler said.

“If it’s not once-in-a-lifetime, it’s nearly.”

Water levels are expected to drop in a matter of weeks, though the lake “will probably be here into April. If we’re lucky, May. And then it’ll be a muddy, wet mess, and then it’ll dry out into those gorgeous white salt flats," said Andler.

The lake, which is currently about six miles (9.66 kilometres) long and three miles (4.83 kilometres) wide, is still nowhere near its original state thousands of years ago after it formed during the Ice Age and covered a significant part of the park and was several hundred feet deep.

Guo Yu, an assistant research professor of hydrometeorology at the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute, said the lake's size is a “simple natural phenomenon.”

It's linked to a wet winter from a strong El Nino - a natural and occasional warming of part of the Pacific Ocean that can lead to more precipitation than usual in California - plus climate change, which brings more intense atmospheric rivers to the area more frequently, Yu said.

Scientists need to study Lake Manly now, he said, to see if they can harness the water for other uses in the future, such as drinking water throughout the dry Southwest.

A view of the temporary lake in Death Valley. Credit: AP

Tiffany Pereira, an associate research scientist at the institute, said the lake’s size can be beneficial to local flora and fauna.

Certain seed species endemic to the area, meaning they only naturally exist in Death Valley, have laid dormant for a decade or more and are now beginning their short-lived life cycle because there is enough water to sustain them.

“They hang out, they do their thing, and as soon as it dries up, that’s it. They’re done,” she said.

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