Posts Tagged ‘DROUGHT 2012’

US Drought Monitor August 2, 2012

http://www.droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

The current US Drought Monitor map was published today, and is pictured and linked above.

All but four Chicago-area counties in the US state of Illinois are disaster counties. Illinois has 102 counties. In short, Illinois, and I mean the whole of this giant Midwest state, is a government-listed, aid eligible disaster area. Illinois is, in pertinent part a leading US producer of corn, soybeans and swine, with 76,000 farms covering 28 million acres amounting to nearly eighty percent of Illinois total land acreage. The Illinois Department of Agriculture summarizes:

How does agriculture benefit Illinois’ economy?

Marketing of Illinois’ agricultural commodities generates more than $9 billion annually. Corn accounts for nearly 40 percent of that total. Marketing of soybeans contributes about one-third, with the combined marketings of livestock, dairy and poultry generating about 23 percent.

Billions more dollars flow into the state’s economy from ag-related industries, such as farm machinery manufacturing, agricultural real estate, and production and sale of value-added food products. Rural Illinois benefits principally from agricultural production, while agricultural processing and manufacturing strengthen urban economies.

How are Illinois’ agricultural commodities used?

With more than 950 food manufacturing companies, Illinois is well-equipped to turn the state’s crops and livestock into food and industrial products. Food processing is the state’s number-one manufacturing activity, adding almost $13.4 billion annually to the value of Illinois’ raw agricultural commodities.

http://www.agr.state.il.us/about/agfacts.html

I include this information about Illinois as one way of understanding the immensity and severity of our current drought situation. This post is just an update, really, because the stories rolling in on a daily basis are each stand-alone amazing stories. There is no way to overstate this issue, and the weather predictions are consistently grim. There are only so many words I can drag from my vocabulary to describe this. I could talk about the strange stuff for a minute: there are no birds out during the days anymore. We have no clear idea how the birds are making it or where they go. Birds are very, I think, intuitive about the environment as a whole. This is bizarre but true. Before the drought hit, I spent a night on the couch downstairs and no, we weren’t arguing because we are, quite frankly, too damn old to argue with each other. Whatever. Anyway, I was on the couch and the birds all woke me with very loud chirping, in the middle of the night. They continued all through the night. Never seen anything like it, so, I called my mother. She said, and she was right, “The birds know. They know something is wrong.”

Hate to rat-a-tat-tat-tat you guys, in true machine gun fashion but here is some of it. Today, our neighbor, Indiana, a quarter of the whole state, joined us in the extra-special category of drought called “Exceptional Drought.” Animals in Indiana are walking around the place, eating leaves and things that animals have never before eaten. Our exceptional drought, in Western Kentucky is really strange because we are a lowland area, surrounded by major rivers like the Missouri, The Ohio, The Tennessee and very close The Mississippi rivers. I got stuck in the mud one time because I did not have a good grasp of the water in the ground and I stupidly parked our truck by the side of the road to rescue a squirrel. While I was picking up the squirrel, the truck was visibly and dramatically sinking into the mud right in front of me. It sunk to the axle, and some locals swung by with a truck to assess, educate, then get back in their truck to drive to their place to get the Hije-Dije-Fanoidenheeden rope thing to pull the idiots that are not from here, out of the mud. The idea that water would ever be an issue in this lush river town was unthinkable. People here, BTW are just such good people, lost everything, never complain. This election season, I think the Passing Public will seek to elect Somebody Who Notices and Cares, preferably with some kind of a synapse connected in his whole damn head.

The current people in charge argue about this non-issue or that one, while fifty percent of America stands in a burned up cornfield. Who we gonna kill with what today is totally and utterly disconnected from a really obvious and meaningful issue that impacts, this time, Big Agriculture. People are sick and tired of hearing this other stuff. There is a real issue at hand here at home in our own food supply, and you watch, for example, the future unknown but guaranteed public health issue. Currently, CDC reports an outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough, and CDC is focusing, right now on the infant population because this is a very serious and often fatal respiratory illness for the infants. This is stuff nobody reports in the news because news it not really even news anymore, but 18 states are listed with CDC, with Wisconsin in the lead:

http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks.html

Sorry for the digression there. I am reaching my posted words speed limit, but I would like to turn attention for a moment to our Mississippi River. The Mississippi River is the third longest river in North America, and it is used for shipping. This river is now so dangerously low that in some places, only one narrow, one-way lane is allowed. Any job on a towboat on the Mississippi is now dangerous. It is very difficult for a towboat captain to navigate one of these things in shallow water. At one point, I read where something like seven hundred towboats were lined up and waiting. There have been a number of reported groundings. Even more amazing is that, the US Army Corps of Engineers Dredges the Mississippi, just to keep shipping lanes open. The Mighty Mississippi currently sits at a near-record low level.

Here is a description:

“It looks like a coastline out there,” said Reynold Minsky, president of the 5th Louisiana Levee District board. “There are more beaches on the river than there are in Florida.”


http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-08-02/mississippi-river-drought/56694018/1

I do not yet see a numbers prediction on how much money the shipping industry stands to lose this season due to slowed boat movement, but the big picture here is that we are talking about the United States Heartland.

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all photos taken on 7/24/2012 by CraneStation on flickr

US Drought Outlook (hat tip cmaukonen)

These are popcorn fields in Western Kentucky near our home. One owner, who wished to remain anonymous explained that no one in the area has crop insurance, and that everyone will likely lose the crops. Of the fields we photographed, his looked the best because they are lowland fields. The lowland corn is pictured in the first three photos. Some of the corn growers may chop the fields down for silage. As you can see in the other photos, the creek beds are very low or dry (pictured). One ear we photographed had exposed kernels that appeared unhealthy and below the usual number.

This area relies on nature for water. It is usually extremely lush with swollen creek beds full of small blue gill fish. Many of these beds are dry or very low.

The popcorn grower we spoke to also confirmed the practice among livestock farmers in the region of selling animals for slaughter due to the pressures of drought this season.

Today it was 103 F, and there is no rain in the forecast. As far as corn is concerned, many growers have given up on this year’s crop.
Drought Stressed Corn 005
Lowland popcorn ear, showing less than normal number of kernels, click to enlarge.

Drought Stressed Corn 008
More lowland popcorn

Drought Stressed Corn 006
Lowland

Drought Stressed Corn 013
Corn that is not below the water table

Drought Stressed Corn 012

Drought Stressed Corn 010
Dry creek bed

Drought Stressed Corn 009

Our area today:

…EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT EXPANDS SLIGHTLY…

SYNOPSIS…

THE TWO AREAS OF EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT /D4/ FROM LAST WEEK HAVE BEEN
MERGED. IN KENTUCKY…THIS AREA COVERS MUCH OF HENDERSON…UNION…
MCLEAN…CRITTENDEN…CALDWELL…LYON…LIVINGSTON…MCCRACKEN…
BALLARD AND CARLISLE. IT ALSO COVERS THE OHIO RIVER AREAS OF POSEY
AND VANDERBURGH COUNTIES IN SOUTHWEST INDIANA AND FROM SHAWNEETOWN
TO CAIRO ALONG THE RIVER IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS. EXTREME DROUGHT /D3/
COVERS ALL OF SOUTHWEST INDIANA…WEST KENTUCKY…MOST OF SOUTHEAST
MISSOURI…AND IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS…THE AREA SOUTH OF A LINE FROM
MURPHYSBORO TO MOUNT CARMEL. SEVERE DROUGHT /D2/ COVERS THE REST OF
THE REGION.

SUMMARY OF IMPACTS…

SOIL MOISTURE CONDITIONS.
SOIL MOISTURE DEFICITS CONTINUE TO INCREASE ACROSS THE REGION.
NINETY TO 100 PERCENT OF THE REGION`S TOPSOIL AND SUBSOIL IS
REPORTED AS SHORT OR VERY SHORT.

AGRICULTURAL IMPACTS.
MANY CROPS ARE SHOWING STRESS ACROSS THE REGION AND THE SITUATION IS
BECOMING DIRE FOR MANY FARMERS. A MAJORITY OF THE CORN AND SOYBEANS
ARE LISTED POOR OR VERY POOR. INCREASING AMOUNTS OF LIVESTOCK AND
FIELDS ARE SHOWING STRESS. THE PERCENTAGE OF PASTURES IN THE AREA
RATED AS POOR AND VERY POOR CONTINUES TO GROW. PONDS ACROSS THE
REGION ARE DRY OR DRYING QUICKLY.

Source.

note: For an excellent summary of the US Drought 2012 and its implications and historical context, please visit WeatherDem’s post here.

A reactor shut down button labelled 'SCRAM!'

Photo: Alan Levine / Flickr

On Wednesday, four giant nuclear reactors shut down, in New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Maryland, in response to the heat wave. According to a report, Nine Mile Point 1 nuclear reactor in New York, automatically shut down due to high neutron flux, “meaning neutrons are not equally spread around the reactor core.”

In Pennsylvania, Exelon Corporation shut down Unit 1 at Limerick. According to Reuters:

Exelon Corp shut down the
1,130-megawatt (MW) Unit 1 at the Limerick nuclear power plant
in Pennsylvania early Wednesday following an electrical
disturbance on the non-nuclear side of the plant, the company
said in a release.

The outage came at a bad time for the power grid: Homes and
businesses in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic are cranking up their air
conditioners amid a brutal heat wave blanketing the region.

The electrical disturbance caused a loss of power to
generator cooling equipment, the company said. The unit will
remain offline until repairs, inspections and testing are
completed, it said.

In South Carolina, the Charlotte Observer explains that the nuclear plants experienced problems prior to the current heat wave event:

(more…)

USCorninDrought
photo by USDAgov on flickr

This morning, we rode by several drought-stressed cornfields where we live, in Western Kentucky, and lamented that the farmers will likely lose their entire crops. In many cases, entire patches in any given field have plants that simply never grew at all. Also, the Mississippi River has sunk to near-historic lows, and towed barge groundings are up, complicating shipping on the river.

I have a family member in Indiana who reports the same observations about corn fields. She has horses, and there is no hay, because there is nothing to harvest this year. Also, she was riding in the light of day, and two coyotes tried to attack her horse while she was on it. The coyotes have twice bitten her horses previously. In order for coyotes to attempt to down such a large animal, they are hungry. They are hungry because there are not enough rodents in the fields for the coyotes to eat. These animals are also drought-stressed.

In Texas, cattle ranchers and farmers are selling animals for slaughter by the millions because they cannot afford to feed them; there is not enough food.

On July 16, 2012, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center released a State of the Climate update on the US national drought.

We are currently experiencing the worst drought in my lifetime- the worst drought since the 1950s– and a widespread natural disaster.

Based on the Palmer Drought Index, a moisture supply versus moisture demand calculation, and according to the report, about 56 percent of the US was experiencing moderate to exceptional drought by the end of June, 2012.

The US Drought Monitor Map as of July 5, 2012. with the summary:

By the end of the month, the core drought areas in the U.S. included:

a large area of moderate (D1) to exceptional (D4) drought in the Southeast;

moderate to extreme (D3) drought in the Southern Plains spreading into the Southwest;

moderate to extreme drought in the Southwest to Intermountain Basin, with moderate to severe (D2) drought stretching to the West Coast, and into the Pacific Northwest and pockets of exceptional drought in Colorado;

pockets of moderate to severe drought lingering in the Mid-Atlantic states, with abnormally dry areas in the Northeast states;

moderate to extreme drought across much of the Midwest and Central to Northern Plains, with pockets of exceptional drought in the High Plains of Colorado; and
parts of Hawaii, where moderate to extreme drought persisted.

Highlights from the report:

June 2012 was the 14th warmest and the 3rd driest by measure, on record, since data collection began in 1895. Warmer temperatures accompanied the dry conditions, and Colorado, for example, experienced the warmest June on record.

Two states (Colorado and Kansas) had the warmest April-June, 25 more were in the top ten warmest category, and 19 more ranked in the warmest third of the historical distribution. Twenty-eight states were record warm for January-June 2012 and 26 were record warm for July 2011-June 2012. The rest of the Lower 48 States fell in the top ten warmest or warmest third categories — except Washington and Oregon for January-June and Washington for July-June.

Wyoming statewide Palmer Z Index, April-June, 1895-2012.
As noted earlier, excessive heat increases evapotranspiration and exacerbates drought. The combination of third driest and fifth warmest April-June gave Wyoming the most severe April-June averaged Palmer Z Index in the 1895-2012 record.

The corn and soybean agricultural belt has been hit especially hard by this drought, the report explains.

“Everything’s hungry.”

This Indiana corn farmer takes us through his dried up corn farm, and explains some of the problems related to the 2012 drought: