Readers know by now that the Western US is facing one of the most severe droughts in years. We've documented (read here & here) this spring of a "megadrought" sweeping across states like California and Nevada as risks of a second Dust Bowl increase by the day.
But in this note, let's dive deeper into the drought and how it's impacting farmers and the potential consequences it could have on crops. Meteorologists at BAMWX have published data on surface soil moisture over 20 years. Surface soil moisture is the water that is in the upper 4 inches and available for various types of plants. They found that the 2021 moisture deficit for early June is the worst it has ever been in two decades.
BAMWX's Vince Bryan says the moisture deficit in the soil is "a concern" as it may impact plant development. Soil moisture plays a crucial role in agricultural monitoring, drought and flood forecasting, forest fire prediction, and water supply management.
Soil moisture observations can alert of impending drought, such as what's been underway in the Western US this year.
What this means is that soil moisture deficits can dry crops and make them more vulnerable to pests. Even short-term drought can cause damage to crops, mainly during critical stages of crop development, such as after planting or during flowering.
If the drought persists, crop yields could come underestimates this year and result in elevated agricultural prices.