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The ephemeral nature of Granite Plateau Creek on the Mawson Plateau, means the creek is usually a series of waterholes.
Staircase Falls in Yosemite National Park only flows after heavy rainfall or snowmelt.
Home Reef has repeatedly breached the surface and been subsequently eroded by wave action.
A lake formed at Badwater within Death Valley National Park during the unusually wet winter and spring of 2005

Ephemeral things (from Greek εφήμεροςephemeros, literally "lasting only one day"[1]) are transitory, existing only briefly. Typically the term is used to describe objects found in nature, although it can describe a wide range of things.

Geographical examples[edit]

An ephemeral waterbody is a wetland, spring, stream, river, pond or lake that only exists for a short period following precipitation or snowmelt. They are not the same as intermittent or seasonal waterbodies, which exist for longer periods, but not all year round.

Examples of ephemeral streams are the Luni river in Rajasthan, India, Ugab River in Southern Africa, and a number of small ephemeral watercourses that drain Talak in northern Niger. Other notable ephemeral rivers include the Todd River and Sandover River in Central Australia as well as the Son River, Batha River and the Trabancos River.

Any endorheic basin, or closed basin, that contains a playa or dry lake at its drainage lowpoint can become an ephemeral lake. Examples include Lake Carnegie in Western Australia, Lake Cowal in New South Wales, Mystic Lake and Rogers Lake in California, and Sevier Lake in Utah. Even the driest and lowest place in North America, Death Valley (more specifically Badwater Basin), became flooded with a short-lived ephemeral lake in the spring of 2005.[2]

There are also ephemeral islands such as Banua Wuhu and Home Reef. These islands appear when volcanic activity increases their height above sea level, but disappear over several years due to wave erosion. Bassas da India, on the other hand, is a near-sea level island that appears only at low tide.

Biological examples[edit]

Main article: Ephemeral plant

Many plants are adapted to an ephemeral lifestyle, in which they spend most of the year or longer as seeds before conditions are right for a brief period of growth and reproduction. The spring ephemeral plant mouse-ear cress is a well-known example.

Animals can be ephemeral, with brine shrimp and the mayfly being examples. The placenta is considered an ephemeral organ present during gestation and pregnancy.

Ephemeral artifacts[edit]

Main article: Ephemera

Ephemeral can also be used as an adjective to refer to a fast-deteriorating importance or temporary nature of an object to a person. Brands are notoriously ephemeral assets, magazine publishing was once much more ephemeral than it is today, as was television programming.

A number of art forms can be considered ephemeral because of their temporary nature. Early land art and all sand sculptures, ice sculptures and chalk drawings on footpaths are examples of ephemeral art. G. Augustine Lynas and Duthain Dealbh create ephemeral sculptures.

Other uses[edit]

Often happiness is described as being ephemeral, as one does not find it to be a permanent state, within the scope of human lives. There are always varying shades of happiness and disappointment.

In computer networking technology, an ephemeral port is a TCP, UDP or SCTP port which is dynamically assigned to a client application for a short period of time (the duration of time the application is running). This is in contrast to the "well known" ports which are typically statically assigned to a specific application or service.

Other uses also include:

  • Ephemeral film, a film made by a particular sponsor for a specific purpose other than as a work of art
  • Ephemeral key, a cryptographic key generated for each execution of a key establishment process
  • Ephemeral (EP), a 2009 EP by post-metal band Pelican
  • Ephemeral, a 2013 EP by melodic death metal band Insomnium
  • Ephemeral, a 1997 album by Synæsthesia (band)
  • Ephemeral data structures, the opposite term for persistent data structures
  • Ephemeralization, an accelerating increase in the efficiency of achieving the same or more output (products, services, information, etc.) while requiring less input (effort, time, resources, etc.)
  • Ephemeral Art, an artwork, usually an installation, which is not permanent and often site specific.
  • Ephemeral Messaging, mostly mobile apps that - in contrast to normal chat and IM apps - delete messages after they have been read.[3]


Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ephemeros, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, "A Greek-English Lexicon", at Perseus
  2. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7182113/
  3. ^ Angler, Martin. "The 3 Hottest Apps for Anonymous Messaging". JACKED IN. Retrieved February 13, 2014. 
  4. ^ Olson, Parmy. "Delete By Default". Forbes magazine. Retrieved February 13, 2014.