Posts Tagged ‘USDA’

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.

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: