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Forum Post: Don't Ignore the Drought: It's Bad, and It's Not Going Away

Posted 6 years ago on Jan. 19, 2013, 9:57 a.m. EST by TrevorMnemonic (5827)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Droughts, it could be argued, are the opposite of news. By definition, they represent the absence of something (namely, adequate rain) happening. And they only occur when that something has already been not-happening for a very long time. As a result, droughts tend not to make the front page. When they do – as happened last summer, when headlines trumpeted the worst U.S. drought conditions in 50 years – the public gets concerned. But soon enough, droughts begin to feel like business as usual again, invisible in their very ubiquity.

It's time to start paying attention.


Well, first off, the current drought – which is essentially the same one the U.S. has been experiencing since 2010, and which last year encompassed more than 65 percent of the country, more than at any time since the Dust Bowl in the 1930s – is having some eye-popping impacts that make it tough to ignore. In 2012, more than 9 million acres went up in flames in this country. Only dredging and some eleventh-hour rain kept the mighty Mississippi River from being shut down to navigation due to low water levels; continuing drought conditions make "long-term stabilization" of river levels unlikely in the near future. Several of the Great Lakes are soon expected to hit their lowest levels in history. In Nebraska last summer, a 100-mile stretch of the Platte River simply dried up. Drought led the USDA to declare federal disaster areas in 2,245 counties in 39 states last year, and the federal government will likely have to pay tens of billions for crop insurance and lost crops. As ranchers became increasingly desperate to feed their livestock, "hay rustling" and other agricultural crimes rose.

Still, it's easy to dismiss even the worst impacts of drought as temporary problems – once some rain falls, we get to move on. It's over. Right?

Sadly, no. Major droughts have effects that endure long after they've technically ended. Food production and food prices can suffer long-term disruptions. Drought-related culling and destocking has left the U.S. cattle herd at a 60-year low; beef prices hit an all-time high in November and are expected to increase. The current drought has also hit producers of staple crops from corn to wheat to hay. Furthermore, drought depletes water reserves in glaciers, aquifers and groundwater on which future growing seasons depend. Officials have reported rapidly declining water levels in the crucial, shrinking Ogalalla Aquifer, and some areas are seeing spikes in water violations as farmers and ranchers overdraw their permits.

Even more troubling, drought conditions are showing signs of becoming self-sustaining. Lack of rainfall today means less moisture is available to create future rainfall tomorrow. Even when it does rain, it doesn't necessarily help much, as water runs off hard-baked ground in flash floods instead of being absorbed into soil or plant roots. A recent study in Nature explained that drought-stricken trees often die even after rainfall has returned, because their ability to suck up water has been fatally compromised. Even in the worst-affected areas, there has been rain – considerable storms, even – during this drought. But it hasn't been enough to turn things around. Instead, for most of the drought-stricken U.S., this scary state of affairs is predicted to persist or intensify.

That brings us to the biggest reason not to ignore this drought: It's a harbinger of things to come.

Last week, a newly released draft of the National Climate Assessment cited severe drought among other recent examples of extreme weather that prove that "climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present."

The report warns that the greatest consequences of climate change will come in the form of more extreme "extremes" – not just drought, but also intense heat, rains, flooding and storms. It predicts a future where drought is more severe, U.S. crop yields are lower and the ability of ecosystems to moderate the effects of drought is diminished.

"The Dust Bowl (in the 1930s) lasted for several years, but eventually the rains returned and the region recovered," U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) wrote in a recent letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Unfortunately, our current drought may be more than a passing natural phenomenon."

"Unfortunately" is right. We simply can no longer think of drought as aberrant weather that we can ignore until it goes away. Instead, it's part of our new, unpredictable normal.



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[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 5 years ago

'The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) has finally published its findings on the cause of recent global warming. This Koch-funded reanalysis of millions of temperature observations from around the world, “A New Estimate of the Average Earth Surface Land Temperature Spanning 1753 to 2011,” concludes: … solar forcing does not appear to contribute to the observed global warming of the past 250 years; the entire change can be modeled by a sum of volcanism and a single anthropogenic [human-made] proxy.' - from - http://www.nationofchange.org/koch-funded-study-finds-25-degrees-fahrenheit-warming-land-1750-manmade-solar-forcing-does-not-appea .

Never Give Up Occupying The Environmental Issues! Solidarity.

[-] 3 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 5 years ago

NAWAPA (North American Water and Power Authority) would do the trick. 50% of US precipitation falls in Alaska and runs off unused into the ocean. Bring just 20% of that down to Canada and the lower 48, and we'll be able to turn the central American desert green.

Once the water is used in agriculture, and later industry, it will evaporate and be distributed through increased rainfall throughout the country.

Building it would create good paying jobs for as many as 30 million people. The revenue generated will pay off the investment, and then some, as JFK use to say about this, his proposed project, for many decades, perhaps a century, afterwards.

Learning this kind of continental engineering will prepare us for engineering entire planets, when the time for that comes.

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

yah I remember you linked that a while back. It seems like a great idea. Do you have any sources of outside groups who have studied it to confirm how beneficial it would be?

[-] 2 points by arturo (3169) from Shanghai, Shanghai 5 years ago

Here's a site that goes into that pretty well:


[-] 2 points by Kavatz (464) from Edmonton, AB 5 years ago

I've been tuning in to the talk from the people in the know on this subject and it scares the shit out of me. I keep thinking of the movie Tank Girl or conspiracies to heard people together and ration water while secretly triggering natural disasters to reduce the population.

Governments of the world (not all, but mostly), can't/won't fix anything because of money-based systems, but more specifically the 1%.

Change is necessary.

[-] 2 points by quantumystic (1710) from Memphis, TN 6 years ago
[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 6 years ago

Wickard v. Filburn

[-] 1 points by quantumystic (1710) from Memphis, TN 6 years ago

i already know.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

No kids climate change is NOT a story - are any of you old enough to remember rain? No not the freak flood deluge - well yes I guess kinda - but not really - rain was more gentle and regular - and there was grass and it was green and felt good to walk on with bare feet................

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 6 years ago

You should look at the platte river before and after

This was a river - https://marketplace.omaha.com/shop/images/D/d-71118.jpg

Once a place to take your boat, now a place to drive your 4 wheeler.

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Think that it will be paved?

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 6 years ago

Yah right. We barely fix pot holes here.

[-] 3 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Shovel ready project - government stimulus program - what could go wrong ?

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

we have water mains bursting too!

[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

That seems to happen quite a lot - aging infrastructure.

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

Infrastructure they do not want to fix. Jobs they do not want to create. They prefer to use monetary policy to give trillions to banks instead.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

On a funny aside ( not funny ha ha ) - I noticed while watching the inauguration ceremonies today - that my tv broadcast reception was not once interrupted by a passing train. So What. Yeah I know - the what though - IS - on normal days my tv reception is lost several times an hour as trains pass by.

Guess this coverage was wanted to be uninterrupted. Hhmmmm - the propaganda must be unbroken?

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

aAHhaaaa ha hahahaa hahahaaaaa - ceremonies ending - train interference returning aAHhaaaa ha hahahaa hahahaaaaa ( now that IS funny Ha Ha )

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

I can tell you what the speech was about and I didn't even watch it.

One word - Hypocrisy

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago

There ya go - very accurate summary.

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

this sums up my feelings about members of congress and the prez getting sworn in.


[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 5 years ago
[-] 1 points by shoozTroll (17632) 5 years ago

They are waiting until it gets bad enough that we accept the added taxes to fix it.

Just gotta wait for the PR to sink in.

That's exactly what's happening in Michigan.

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33639) from Coon Rapids, MN 6 years ago

Yep lovely what prolonged drought can do - now just watch out for flash floods from the odd major storm. No kids really not a good idea to pitch a tent here.

There is talk that barge traffic on the Mississippi may be curtailed quite sharply do to low water level.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Kids, aren't droughts really "natural rainfall fluctuations?" To remove air pollutants, we, as responsible adults, have recently installed more "natural self-cleaning air filters" -- your lungs.

[-] 0 points by OTP (-203) from Tampa, FL 6 years ago

I do have to say that the cottage on Lake Ontario that we grew up partying at is no where near alltime lows. There's the remains of an old resturant from the 1920s about 20 feet out.

[-] -2 points by livingston9 (-154) 5 years ago


You should listen to Carlin too. He actually makes more sense then any Climate Change alarmists.

[-] -1 points by TrevorMnemonic (5827) 5 years ago

Pollution is not natural.

I like George Carlin, I do not get my science from George Carlin though. George Carlin is a comedian, he is not a dependable source like James Hansen, or any real study on climate change and the effect of pollution and increasing carbon levels.

[-] -2 points by livingston9 (-154) 5 years ago

"do not get my science from George Carlin"

Obviously,who would? That's not the point.

You don't have to be a James Hansen to understand the basic principals Carlin is stating.

It's very simple,...in summation,not verbatim:

The world has been through way more environmental sieges (billions of years) before mankind ever became a factor and it survived and healed/replenished it's self.

So to arrogantly believe that a mere 150 years of mankind's industrialization has brought the Earth to it's Climate Change knees is not only ridiculous but suggests that mankind's propaganda is a far greater threat to mans survival then any real environmental damage.