After a spring filled with unprecedented record disasters of tornadoes and floods, we heading straight into a catastrophic disaster that few people outside of the affected region seem to be talking about.  In fact, the situation seems so dire, you would think you are reading about a country in sub-Saharan Africa.  I am speaking about the next climatological disaster here in the United States – drought.

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Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture designated all 254 counties in Texas natural disaster areas, qualifying them for varying levels of federal relief.

Fourteen states across the southern United States, particularly Texas, are facing a deadly combination of record heat and low precipitation.  The Office of the Texas State Climatologist reports that this past June was the hottest June in recorded history. Twenty-five Texan cities broke heat records. Meanwhile, water supplies are drying up and crops are dying. Meteorologist say a strong La Niña – an abnormal cooling of Pacific waters — is to blame.

Experts are quick to tell you that this is no ordinary drought. It’s a large-scale crisis that some are comparing to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The National Drought Mitigation Center (I didn’t even know we had one until I did this research) has stated that this is a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime event.
The Drought Mitigation Center is housed in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  It uses a ranking system to evaluate drought:

  • D0 – abnormal dryness
  • D1 – moderate drought
  • D2 – severe drought
  • D3 – extreme drought
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The current crisis surpasses all of these, earning a rating of D4 -- exceptional drought. What does that mean?? Crop losses are not just major but dire and widespread. The New York Times reports that agricultural losses could exceed $3 billion. And municipalities are not just experiencing water shortages but water emergencies including severe water restrictions and rationing.

It is interesting to me to compare the 30’s with now.  In the ’30s, there was the Depression with the drought on top of that difficult economic time, creating even more devastation.  Eighty years later, we find ourselves and the world, mired in the throes of another difficult economy, millions of people out of work and another exceptional drought (in fact, a D4 rated drought).  Grocery shoppers will feel the effects of the drought at the dinner table, where the cost of staples like meat, dairy and bread will surely rise and this will certainly have an impact on global food supplies as well.

http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/12/us/12drought.html?_r=3&scp=2&sq=drought&st=cse

Check out the Drought Impact: