2013 drought may be worse than 2012, says NOAA

Bert Kaufmann/CC BY 2.0

The historic drought of 2011 and 2012 killed some 500 million trees in Texas, forced ranchers to slaughter cattle early, slowed barge traffic on the Mississippi River, just to mention a few negative economic impacts.

Unfortunately, Suzanne Goldenberg at The Guardian reports that 2013 may be even worse, according to early forecasts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer's end.
...
But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.

Despite last year's drought being the "most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years", we're already off to a worse start than in 2011 or 2012 reports Katherine Bagley at InsideClimate News:

Nearly 80 percent of farmland experienced drought in 2012, with more than 2,000 counties designated disaster areas. By September 2012, 50 percent of the crops being harvested were in poor or very poor condition.

Last year's damaged harvest is expected to raise food prices by as much as 4 percent in 2013, particularly products like beef, which suffered from a lack of available cattle feed and viable foraging options. Overall, the 2012 drought cost an estimated $150 billion in damage, as well as an estimated 0.5 to 1 percent drop in the U.S. gross domestic product.

NOAA hopes that their forecast will encourage farmers to make adjustments to their water usage and growing techniques, but...

Bob Young, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farm organization, said that while the heads-up may influence some crop decisions, most farmers probably won't pay attention to the scientific findings.

"They know what is going on in their own dirt," Young said. "They tend to watch their own area specifically. Some might choose more soybean than corn since it is more drought tolerant, but overall, I don’t think it will change things much."

Sigh. I guess when your losses are paid for by the government and insurance companies there's less incentive to listen to scientists, learn from recent history and adapt to a changing climate.

Tags: Agriculture | Drought | Farming | Global Climate Change | Water Conservation | Water Crisis

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