Winter snow storms not enough to recharge soil and aquifers to end historic drought. 2013 drought forecast looking grim.
The historic drought that laid waste to America’s grain and corn belt is unlikely to ease before the middle of this year, a government forecast warned on Thursday.
The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.
The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.
"It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather," Laura Furgione, the deputy director of NOAA’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.
Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.
The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy. The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51% of the country.
But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.
Strong reporting on how U.S. farmers cannot adapt to more big droughts like the one of 2012. Insurance companies covered billions in losses last year, but if 2013 is as bad as 2012, portfolios may shift to safer options.
US farmers are bracing for long-term challenges from climate change including blasting heat and more capricious rainfall.
About 80 percent of the farmland in the world’s biggest soybean and corn (maize) producer was scorched by extreme heat and drought last summer, savaging crops and sending global prices for the key food commodities soaring, hurting poor countries that depend on imports.
Across the heartland of the corn crop in the Midwest state of Iowa, farmers have turned a jaundiced eye on last season’s disaster to focus on this year’s weather conditions.
By early March, 53 percent of the land was still abnormally dry or suffering drought.
But as more and more accept that the climate is changing, farmers are putting their faith in technology to help them beat global warming…
Insurers compensated the losses with a record $14.7 billion in payouts — enough to allow farmers to get ready for a new season.
He subtly makes the case to adapt rivers and ports to climate change.
President Obama said Tuesday that federal investments in waterway maintenance will be vital as drought fueled by climate change creates problems for barges bringing goods out of the Midwest.
Obama, during a meeting of the President’s Export Council, noted recent problems moving goods when last year’s major drought lowered water levels in the Mississippi River.
“Recently we had the challenge of … getting goods from the Midwest down the Mississippi when the water started going down,” Obama said.
He said the upcoming White House budget proposal would seek to address maintenance needs.
“And if in fact temperatures are warming — I know this is not our climate change meeting — but I think we can anticipate that we may end up having some challenges in terms of managing our waterways well, whether or not we can continue to use barges to move a lot of product out of the American heartland to ports around the world, that is going to depend on our infrastructure,” Obama said.
“So we are going to, in our budget, continue to push Congress to see if we can essentially deal with deferred maintenance,” he added in emphasizing the importance of waterway and port infrastructure.
The president touched on climate change very briefly during wide-ranging remarks about U.S. export and trade policy.
The Dark Snow Project is about 50% funded. Scientists believe that increased droughts are causing more wildfires. These fires emit soot and ash into the air, called ‘black carbon.’ This black carbon circulates through the atmosphere and is deposited (in part) on glaciers and sea ice.
Scientists are finding that the black carbon absorbs heat from the sun, in turn causing the ice to melt faster than expected. The effect of melting ice is faster sea level rise, which will impact (in the least) coastal cities around the world.
The unique part of this project is that it is mostly funded by citizens like you. Really good project and highly recommend visiting their website, darksnowproject.org.
Dark Snow Project: Climate Change and Citizen Science in Greenland
For the dark snow project to succeed, your help is needed.
Please visit darksnowproject.org and consider a tax deductible donation to this unique citizen science initiative, and helping expand the boundaries of knowledge in this critical area of climate science
Extreme Events of 2012: Looking at the Big Picture
Summary: Drought, cold, and massive storms were among the devastating climate-related events that struck the United States in 2012. These events were incredibly destructive and disruptive for people across the country. In this video, NOAA scientist Deke Arndt explains that a better understanding of the relationship between climate and extreme weather is challenging, but important, because it will help our nation become even more “climate smart.” View the video online: http://1.usa.gov/UKIJHT
Big dust storms like this are called haboob, a quirky African word for huge wind storms. The haboob is not the same as a regular dust storm; it’s bigger and more dangerous.
“A haboob is different from an ordinary dust storm in that’s it’s generally much more ominous appearing and much more threatening,” Dr. Gill said. “A haboob is like a giant wall or front of dust that blows in often to a clear, calm sky. Sometimes it almost comes out of nowhere.”
According to David J. Passman, senior vice president and national director of the National Property Claims Strategic Outcomes Practice at Willis North America, the size and powerful wind make a haboob much more formidable.
“What differentiates a haboob from a normal dust storm is first of all the size. Haboobs have been determined to be as much as 60 miles wide, can blow at a rate of anywhere between 20 to 60 mph and have lasted up to three hours. There’s a very hard downspout of wind which then picks up sediment and other matter that is on the ground and pushes it forward on a high velocity,” Passman said. Via.
Drought has caused water levels on Lake Michigan to drop to lowest levels in recorded history. The lake feeds several rivers, which have also dropped levels and flow. Impacts include slowed shipping and nasty sewage backup. In fact, instead of the water flowing from the lake into the Chicago River, the river could actually reverse flow and empty into the lake. The Chicago River btw is “70-percent sewage.”
Drought could reverse flow of Chicago River
Water levels on Lake Michigan are the lowest in recorded history. If the level continues to drop, the Chicago River could reverse itself and send untreated sewage into Lake Michigan.
"We’ve been monitoring since 1918 and this is the lowest Lake Michigan and Lake Huron have been,” Roy Deda, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said. “There would be some potential water quality impact to the Great Lakes if we were to continue to lock vessels when the river is higher than the lake.”
“Our river is 70-percent sewage. I think we need to recognize that. This is an open sewer. It depends upon gravity to go away from us. If that gravity does not work with the lake going down, it goes the other way, and we have done nothing to deal with the contaminants that we need to actually invest in fixing,” Henry Henderson, Natural Resources Defense Council
The Army Corps of Engineers said it is carefully monitoring the situation, and if lake levels continue to drop, they may have to modify how they operate the locks to limit the amount of water that goes into the lake, which would have an impact on recreational boats and barge traffic.
No deaths have been reported, although officials in Tasmania were still trying to find about 100 people who have been missing since last week when a fire tore through the small town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, destroying around 90 homes. On Tuesday, police found no bodies during preliminary checks of the ruined houses. (AP Photos)
Tennessee’s Christmas tree market hit hard by drought
Shortage could result in higher prices in future, growers say
Record heat and abnormally dry conditions conspired to cause significant losses, especially among seedlings and saplings, local growers say. That could result in higher prices in the future, when those trees would have been hitting the market.
Tennessee ranks 13th nationally in Christmas tree production, with more than 166,000 harvested in 2007, the latest year for which U.S. Department of Agriculture figures were available. The state had 177 tree farms that year, with the biggest concentration in northeast Tennessee.