America’s Great 2012 Drought

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The progress of the drought has been horrific:

12 week 2012 Drought: As Bad as During the 1930s Dust Bowl?

The current drought is covering almost as much of the U.S. as during the 1930s dust bowl:

drought 2012 Drought: As Bad as During the 1930s Dust Bowl?

As the Weather Channel  pointed out last month,  the area covered by drought rivals some of the dust bowl years:

map specnews29 ltst 4namus enus 650x366 2012 Drought: As Bad as During the 1930s Dust Bowl?

As of June – the area covered by severe drought was still lower than during the Dust Bowl years, but still made the top 10 list:

map specnews30 ltst 4namus enus 650x366 2012 Drought: As Bad as During the 1930s Dust Bowl?

But – despite the recent rains in some areas, which reduced by 1% the area covered by drought – the farm states remain parched, and the area covered by severe drought is still growing.

Unfortunately, the one certainty is higher food prices.

Much of the area hit during the Dust Bowl – and again today – is naturally prone to drought.  As the Weather Channel notes:

The area is known as semi-arid and is naturally prone to drought and high winds. In fact, early settlers referred to it as the “Great American Desert.”

Interestingly, HowStuffWorks notes:

About 90 percent of the 450 million hectares of arid land in North America suffers from moderate to severe desertification [source: Center for International Earth Science Information Network]

But as Ezra Klein notes, there have been much bigger droughts in the distant past:

Scientists have looked at data from tree rings and found (pdf) that North America endured brutal “megadroughts” during the medieval period. These droughts were similar in intensity to today’s dry spells, but lasted 20 to 40 years and were possibly linked to massive La Niña ocean events:

ancient droughts Americas Great 2012 DroughtRed square = Here there be monstrous droughts.

 

Fortunately, we haven’t seen anything that bad in recent times.

Postscript:   July was reportedly the warmest month recorded in the U.S. since records began in 1895.  And AP reports:

The first seven months of 2012 were the warmest on record for the nation. And August 2011 through July this year was the warmest 12-month period on record, just beating out the July 2011-June 2012 time period.

Some say this proves global warming is a dire threat, while others say that it is dishonest to claim that short-term weather proves anything.

But we can all agree on the following: