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U.S. | Environment & Forest Defense

The Drought Of 2012
by Thaddeus Achilles Griffen
Tuesday Jul 24th, 2012 10:36 PM
The drought of 2012, it causes, and consequences

By Thaddeus Achilles Griffen

In what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (N.O.A.A.) has declared as the worst drought since 1956, with record setting temperatures exceeding those recorded in the Dust Bowl era, 2012 may prove to be the year that ushers in a new global food crisis that eclipses the one in 2001-2008 that ignited food riots in over 30 countries around the world.

On Monday July the 15th of this year the National Climactic Data Center has announced that 55% percent of the country was in moderate to extreme drought, as Corn and Soybean crops were devastated and grain prices rose sharply according to the Chicago Board of Trade.

"I get on my knees every day and I'm saying an extra prayer right now," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced to journalists after a briefing with President Obama. "If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it."

Vilsack stated that the drought was intensifying for those farmers that were deeply impacted and that the wilting of their crops will mean that higher food prices will be passed on to the consumer.

"Part of the problem we're facing is that weather conditions were so good at the beginning of the season that farmers got in the field early, and as a result this drought comes at a very difficult and painful time in their ability to have their crops have good yield," stated Vilsack.

The Department of Agriculture announced that it would extend drought aid to total of 1,297 counties spanning 29 states that have been designated as primary natural disaster areas. Vilsack stated that the increase in the price of grain would trigger an increase in meat and dairy prices which will be higher not only this year, but the next.

"This is your last chance to get cheap beef," a commodities futures trader in Valparaiso, Ind., Walter Breitinger told reporters
In Illinois and Iowa, where approximately one-third of U.S. corn and soybeans is produced, by the 18th of July continued to swelter in temperatures hovering around 100 degrees (37.8 degrees Celsius) with no chance of rain in sight.

Corn prices had spiked to more than 50 percent in the past month as the crop wilted in many locations during its key growth stage of pollination. Wheat too had rallied by 50 percent, but had not reached record levels during the week ending on July the 21st.

"Now, it's soybeans' turn. The next two weeks will be critical for them. There is a chance for catastrophic problems in soybeans," said one Don Roose, U.S. Commodities grains analyst located in Des Moines, Iowa.

As the fallout from this year’s drought appears to be getting steadily worse, memory harkens back to 2007-08 where a spike in prices ignited food-riots from Haiti Bangladesh, as the world’s number of people suffering from hunger surpassed 1 billion.

Then as now, people around the world are now worried about the affects this drought might have on food prices globally. Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, José Graziano da Silva, was quoted in saying: “I am certainly concerned about the recent rises in food commodity prices, given their potential implications especially for the vulnerable and the poor, who spend as much as 75 percent of their income on food.”

Is Global Warming To Blame?

Drought, of course, can be very complex phenomenon-with many different causes. A drought occurs when a region stays abnormally dry for extended periods that can cause an imbalance in the water cycle. One way it can occur is through there simply being less rain could fall on a particular region. Another is through the evaporation of moisture from soil could be higher than the precipitation above, and can increase either because of hotter temperatures or wind shifts.

Though scientists have looked at data that indicates that North America is currently suffering from drought due to massive La Niña ocean events, an IPCC report notes that scientists have linked significantly the intensity, duration, and proliferation of droughts, like the one that occurred this year, to global warming. Climate models tend to agree that, in the future, droughts will get more intense and more frequent in the Mediterranean, in central North America, Mexico, northeast Brazil and southern Africa.

The link between drought and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions has been widely substantiated by scientific research. According to a 2010 study based on GHG emissions, the United States and many other highly populated nations, face the ever increasing threat of severe and prolonged drought in the decades to come. A study by scientist Aiguo Dai, at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (N.C.A.R.) based his finding on the results taken from 22 computer models used by the I.P.C.C. in their 2007 report. The detailed analysis he concluded that increased temperatures associated with human-induced climate change will likely create increasingly dry soil conditions on a global scale. He further warns that droughts may eventually reach a scale that has never been observed in modern times.

“We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community,” said Dai . “If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”

Additional scientific support for the link between drought and global warming comes from the State Of The Climate report published in the July 2012, by the American Meteorological Society. This report that was compiled by nearly 400 scientists from 48 countries substantiates the claim that global warming may be contributing to drought. The report’s accompanying analysis titled “Explaining Extreme Events,” make the connection between human-driven climate change and six selected weather crises in 2011, including the Texas drought of 2011.

With the enormous consequence’s springing from this year’s massive drought on the horizon and the great toll it will take on farmers, consumers, and people around the globe-one thing is clear. If we as a species do not drastically alter our behavior in relation to the earth, it is likely that will see even more droughts in the decades that lie ahead.
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