The progress of the drought has been horrific:
The current drought is covering almost as much of the U.S. 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:
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:
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:
Red 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: