Posts Tagged ‘DROUGHT’

US Drought Monitor August 14, 2012 001
US Drought Monitor August 16, 2012 photo by Crane-Station on flickr

Link to map and summary.

The US Drought Monitor map for August 14, 2012 was published at 8:30 Am today, August 16, 2012 and is pictured above. Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina (the Southeast) have shown some improvement due to rain, with Alabama no longer experiencing exceptional drought. The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states received enough rain that things did not get any worse, according to the map. The South and Southern Plains states Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana experienced deterioration in conditions, with “large swaths of exceptional drought” added this week in Oklahoma. Rain alleviated some of the drought in the Midwest and Northern Plains states, including “central Iowa, across northern and central Illinois and Indiana, and into western Ohio and southern Michigan,” as well as North and South Dakota. However, the summary states, ” Exceptional Drought (D4) expanded in the western and central parts of Nebraska and through central and eastern Kansas and into western and central Missouri.” In the West, extreme and exceptional drought expanded in Colorado. Idaho is also dry.

CNN published this video four days ago, nicely explaining the drought impact to the mighty Mississippi River and the shipping industry:

Updated impact to the US corn and soybean agricultural belt is summarized as follows (from drought map link above):

As of last week, 87% of the U.S. corn crop, 85% of soybeans, 63% of hay, and 72% of cattle areas were experiencing drought. Over half of the corn and soybean areas are experiencing Extreme (D3) to Exceptional (D4) Drought. This has led to both reduced yields and earlier harvests.

We live in the Ohio River Valley in Kentucky at the border where the Ohio divides Kentucky from Southern Illinois that is an area of exceptional drought. Even though people cheered at the first rain a few days ago, that first rain after a drought is kind of like water drops to a hot stove: pfssssst. We will need several soaking rains. This morning I took a walk and put water and food out for the few birds that are out. The only other animal I noticed was a lizard. He did not want to be photographed, so I took these photos:

(Note: Click to enlarge any of the flickr photos in this post)

Drought corn

Drought creek

Drought creek bed

Given the dearth of corn these days, there is concern among folks we have spoken with out and around, that the ethanol requirement is cutting into the already dwindling livestock feed supply. On the shortage of hay, I had a sad conversation with a neighbor who has riding horses. She said that when she attended her last riding club, she learned that some horse owners are selling their horses (I assume for slaughter but I was too stunned to ask) because there is not enough food. I have a family member who owns horses in Indiana, who is not showing or otherwise exercising horses, in an effort to reduce the stress of increased energy requirements on the horses.

In other odd news, low water levels in reservoirs, called “water drawdown” is associated with increased methane emissions, according to this WSU- Vancouver study and covered in this TPM article. It stands to reason that drought can lead to low water levels in reservoirs like the one you see in this article. What to do with all that methane? Well, landfill methane is being used to power prison generators, according to this article.

Speaking of landfills, as you know, we try to keep good things from going to the landfill by retrieving food from dumpsters. We were stunned to find the other day, of all things, corn, in a dumpster. We reasoned that some of the sweet corn must be coming from irrigated gardens somewhere, because there is not any corn growing around here.

The State of the Climate Report is here.

WeatherDem’s latest analysis titled, NASA & NOAA: July 2012 Was 12th, 4th Warmest On Record, is here.

A wildlife impact article by Jim Low titled, Drought affecting Missouri fish, wildlife, forests, is here.

The Department of Defense “purchases approximately 94 million pounds of beef, 64 million pounds of pork, and 500,000 pounds of lamb annually.” They are looking to increase purchases due to the increase in drought-related slaughtered meat, and their statement is here.

Drought conditions and heat are connected to incidents of West Nile Virus, as this article, titled, “Ohio health officials confirm 9th case of West Nile virus, mosquitoes test positive statewide,” explains.

CDC’s 2012 West Nile Update August 14 page is here.

More photos:

Iowa:

20120813-OSEC-DK-97897
Iowa corn photo by USDAgov, creative commons, flickr with summary:

President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Monday, August 13, 2012 to view the drought stricken crops. The federal government has already taken some steps to ease farmers whose crops are growing poorly this summer, and the administration plans to spend close to $200 million on livestock, officials announced earlier in the day. The Department of Defense is encouraging vendors to buy meat to ease the crisis. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.

Colorado:

20120721-NRCS-LSC-0001
Photo by USDAgov on flickr

Aerial views of drought affected Colorado farm lands, 69 miles east of Denver, Colorado on Saturday, July 21, 2012. Green areas are irrigated, the yellow areas are dryland wheat crops. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

This is a true account of two farming community events during the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87

Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939
Joe Jones: Men and Wheat (mural study, Seneca, Kansas Post Office), 1939 By americanartmuseum
Smithsonian American Art Museum, creative commons, flickr

Author’s note: For those of you following the current drought, here are some corn and soybean pictures I snapped yesterday, in Western Tennessee, at the Kentucky border. Thrashing of the wheat, an activity that is one of the subjects of this post, is something I had to ask my mother about. I was not sure when they did this, because we are not seeing much wheat these days.

Drought Stressed Corn Western Tennessee/Kentucky Border
Corn, Drought2012, click to enlarge. Or not. It’s pretty sad.

Drought soybeans
soybeans, Drought2012, click to enlarge.

A Kernel of Wheat
Western Missouri, 1932

Of all farming activities we performed during the Great Depression of the 1930s, two were notable because they involved the whole community: thrashing of the wheat, and butchering the animals. Summer thrashing of the wheat was the most exciting time of the year because it was a social time rolled into sustenance activity.

The thrashing machine, or, in modern spelling, threshing machine (or simply thresher), was a machine first invented by Scottish mechanical engineer Andrew Meikle for use in agriculture. It was invented (c.1784) for the separation of grain from stalks and husks. For thousands of years, grain was separated by hand with flails, and was very laborious and time consuming. Mechanization of this process took much of the drudgery out of farm labour.

Source.
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Old Horse Drawn Corn Planter
old horse drawn corn planter by Colbyt69, creative commons, flickr.

This is a true story from the Great Depression as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of various farming tasks during the historic drought years of the mid-1930s.

Seasonal Farming Tasks in the Great Depression

In the spring of each year, the community farmers watched the sky and talked with each other in church about when to prepare the fields for planting. For corn, the fields had to be plowed and harrowed, and then the rows were set. The implements used to plow, break up and smooth the soil and form rows were horse-drawn. After the fields were prepared for planting, corn planters were also hitched to horses. A container on the corn planter was set to click open every three feet or so, and release three kernels of corn to the soil. So far, we are talking about mechanization.

The mechanization ended after the planting of the kernels. The next task involved human hands that belonged to kids, for the most part. Once the corn plants were about two inches tall, the kids in the community crawled up and down the corn rows, inspecting each three-plant corn hill, taking visual inventory. We crawled down each row with a knife and a bucket of kernels, to see if three plants were in each cluster. Less than three plants in a hill meant that there was a cutworm in the soil, dining. We dug and chopped the worm, and replaced the eaten kernel with the new kernel. This task was called “replanting the corn,” and if you were a kid, you got that assignment. Replanting the corn was labor intensive and ritually performed every year. In church, farmers would ask each other, “Did you replant your corn yet?”

Cutworm (Noctuinae) caterpillar
Cutworm photo by Futureman1 on creative commons, flickr.

Another task where fingers did the work was ridding each individual potato plant in any given field of the potato bugs. Potato bugs are fat with orange stripes, and they can completely decimate a field of potatoes. We crawled up and down the rows with a tin can of coal oil that served as our insecticide at the time. We looked at each leaf, picked off the bugs and the masses of eggs, and dropped them into the can of coal oil. These were days before pesticides. In addition to coal oil for the bugs, we rubbed coal oil and bacon grease on our skin to keep the chiggers away. Again, our fingers did the work and like replanting the corn, potato bug removal was extremely labor intensive.

Potato Beetle
Potato Beetle by BugMan50 on flickr, creative commons

We were also always bottling the lambs. I do not ever remember a year when we weren’t nursing baby lambs behind the stove in the house. There was always a mama who had triplets or twins she didn’t like or that were born early in the cold, and we brought the orphans into the house and fed them out of bottles with rubber nipples. The lambs were tame and very hungry and they got strong in a hurry. They would butt their little heads against you, and when they were old enough to run, we sent them back to mama. We always had an area behind the stove fixed for the bottling of the lambs.

Perhaps the most difficult but the most pleasing job I did on the farm during those years was a winter job. In the off-season we repaired the gunny sacks for the wheat. There was no time to do this job in the summer; nobody had time to patch their sacks while tending to crops. Since we could not have the gunny sacks in the house, we would sit in the barn and patch the sacks using heavy thread and darning needles.

Patching the gunny sacks was hard work and the barn was always cold, but the good side of the job was that I got to spend time with my dad. He would tell me stories and teach me moral lessons, and this was the time of year that I got to spend quality time with my father.

Also, we never worked on Sundays. My parents were Evangelical (not to be confused with evangelism), and they thought that it was a sin to work on Sundays. While we went to church when we could, we often did not go because we did not have the gas for the old car (although my dad sometimes took gas from the tractor), or because my mother did not have a dress for church. My mother took a nap on Sunday afternoons, but since my dad never napped, I got to spend more quality time with him on these days. He wanted me to know how to identify every tree and every bird, and during our Sunday afternoon walks we gathered walnuts and hickory nuts. My dad did not want me to miss any of the trees in the area, so on one of the rare occasions that we rode in the car, he stopped the car so that he could show me a wild cherry tree.

One day, we had a contest in the county to see who could identify the most leaves, and I won. I won a bible, because my kind and patient father had taught me to be a markings expert.

Dust
photo by Robb North on creative commons, flickr

This is a true story from the Great Depression, as told by Letty Owings, age 87. It is a true account of days on a small Western Missouri farm during the drought of the 1930s.

Days on the Farm in 1934

Mom had malaria fever and we had to have her outside. Old Doc Martin, the county doctor, had visited and given my mother quinine. He told us that we had to keep her cool, and that we had to have a block of ice. On the rare occasions that Doc Martin visited, he left with a chicken because we had no money to pay him. Sometimes, he politely declined to take a chicken.

After the doctor left with his chicken, we decided to move outside because we did not have ten cents to buy a block of ice for Mom. The farm houses during the Great Depression had small windows because there was no insulation and no such thing as double-paned windows. Some rooms in the farm houses had no windows at all; there was no breeze in the house. We had no electricity and no fan.

We moved a mattress outside to underneath a tree for Mom. Pop and I moved our comfort and pillows outside as well, and we stayed next to her. We did not have mattresses. There was only the three of us now because my siblings were older and they were gone. That left Mom, Pop and I to tend to the farm. Mom was born in 1889 and was now 45 years old. I was nine. My responsibility now was to care for Mom and for the small animals on the farm. Pop told me not to worry about the big animals, so, during the day, Pop tended to the fields and to the cows and horses, and I tended to Mom and to the chickens, ducks and geese.

On her mattress, Mom would rave and cry and thrash. She was out of her mind and she didn’t know me. She had a roaring fever and there was nowhere to get cool. It did not rain that year until the first snow fell in the fall. Since we did not have ice, I would lower rags in a bucket on a rope into the well to cool them, and then I would wash Mom’s face and hands with the cool rags. We shared the well with the snakes that had gravitated there out of thirst. The well was our refrigerator.

During that summer, also know as a historic Dust Bowl year, we had 53 days that exceeded 100 degrees. Today, every acre is planted, but back then there were not as many roots in the soil to stabilize it; the wind roiled up large clouds of dust. Every living thing on the farm was thirsty, and while my dad was in the fields I dipped well water for the chickens, ducks and geese, and also for Mom. We lived like this, just surviving, hour after hour, day after day. My mom was so sick there were days she didn’t remember.

One day, I thought my mom had died. She was unresponsive to me, and I was so scared. I ran, terrified, to my dad, who was plowing with the mule on the back forty (literally). Pop tied the reins- the mule was a good mule- he wouldn’t go anywhere- Pop tied the reins onto the mule and we both ran back to Mom on her mattress. I was too young to see my mother suffer and die like this under my care. I was so scared because I was responsible for her and if she died I had only myself to blame. Seeing my mother like that haunts and saddens me to this day.

Mom was not dead. She was very hot. We shook her and rolled her and washed her face with cool rags from the well. Eventually she recovered and learned to walk again, but the malaria symptoms recurred in the following years.

During those hot and dry days on the farm, it wasn’t just me and Mom. All of the animals were thirsty and hot- the cows, calves, horses,chickens, ducks and geese- I dipped the well water for them all. My dad was a saint. He never got angry and he never asked for help with the big animals. He told me not to worry, he’d take care of the cows and horses. Pretty much all we had to eat was cornbread, and Pop often made the cornbread out of cornmeal, soured milk and flour in the mornings. At some point, he was able to save enough to get some coal oil burners.

Mom lay on her mattress in her ragged dress and she cried. Pop washed her face and held her hands. His real name was Olando John, and there was never a better man the good Lord ever made.

note: The Dust Bowl years were three consecutive years of drought during the Great Depression. On the description “53 days over 100,” go here to view historic records compared to present day.

Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and caused by a protist. More here.

Also, the picture above has the following caption and description:

Dust

The human crisis was documented by photographers, musicians, and authors, many hired by various federal agencies. The Farm Security Administration hired numerous photographers, giving Dorothea Lange her start, in which she made a name for herself while capturing the impact of the storms and families of migrants. The work of independent artists such as folk singer Woody Guthrie and novelist John Steinbeck grew out of the events of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

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: