I saw the above image shared on Facebook with the description: 'Death Valley is coming to life as a direct result of the rains caused by El Niño. Called a "superbloom".'
The problem is it's not Death Valley, and it's not this year. It's actually from 11 years ago, and was taken in the Tremblor Range in California (170 miles from Death Valley) in march 2005 by Frank Kee.
Even back in 2008 the image had been widely and misleadingly shared on the internet, as the photographer himself describes:
Now this is a pretty harmless example of bunk (except for Mr Kee not getting due credit). But it's a great illustration of why we should not trust the labeling of images on the internet. I had immediate suspicions on seeing the image, so did a quick image search, and one of the first things that came up was a story about desert blooms in Chile:
There were even multiple instances of this image being used to illustrate the story of the bloom in the Atacama desert, so it seemed like case closed at that point.
I was about to point out (on Facebook) where the image had come from, but when I clicked on the Twitter link the post was missing. So I searched a little further, and found hundreds more usages of the image, many predating this tweet and the 2015 story about Atacama.
It then became obvious that this was a very old image (in internet terms), and one that had been shared so many times its origin might be hard to find. Reverse image searches just turned up hundreds more examples, and the oldest one on Tineye.com was only 2008.
So instead of searching by image, I searched with a few search terms to see what came up "Desert Bloom", "Death valley flowers bloom", etc. Finally got a result with "Desert wildflowers"
The first image result led to a 2009 forum post:
The first link changes with time, but a bit of digging in Archive.org (looking at the page around March 2005), and we find the original:
So the lesson here in tracking down a suspicious image is not to stop when you find what looks like the real source. Apply the same skepticism you did to the original source, and check to see if that claim actually holds up. A quick and necessary test is to see if the image existed at an earlier date. In this case the story about the desert blooms in Chile looked authoritative, even crediting a photographer (not Mr Kee though). However the story was from 2015, and there were hundreds of usages of the photo from earlier years.
And don't just rely on image searches. Keyword search can return results that are more relevant. Sometimes you've just got to keep digging until something crops up.
The GPS checks out too.