Record Snowy Winter Means More Midwest Flooding On The Way - Along With Rising Wheat Prices
Connecting the dots between climate change, extreme weather and food security: Bloomberg points out that all the snow the Midwest has received this year (which is consistent with other observed climatic changes, remember) means that the region is being set up for the same devastating floods as 2009 and 2008.North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota all got 3' more snow this year than normal, with nearly 2' remaining on the ground now. North Dakota is the nation's larger grower of wheat. Flooding means delays in planting, which in turn means output may drop and prices rise. Currently wheat futures at the Chicago Board of Trade are 43% higher than this time last year.
Almost half the U.S. has an above-average risk of flooding through April, with areas of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota among the regions with the highest threat, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said today. Eastern South Dakota may experience "moderate to major flooding" next week as rising temperatures melt snow, the government agency said.
photo: Wes Peck/Creative Commons
Bloomberg doesn't make the climate connection, but here it is, in the words of Jeff Masters from Weather Underground (with my emphasis):
Heavy snowstorms are not inconsistent with a warming planet. In fact, as the Earth gets warmer and more moisture gets absorbed into the atmosphere, we are steadily loading the dice in favor or more extreme storms in all seasons, capable of causing greater impacts on society.
As the climate continues to warm we should expect an increase in heavy snow events for a few decades, until the climate grows so warm that we pass the point where it's too warm for it to snow heavily.
We are also experiencing spring creep, where the warmer than average temperatures are shortening the length of winter. For instance, we're now seeing spring runoff in the mountains in the western US starting one to three weeks earlier than 60 years ago.
While the food security risk in the United States due to climate change and changing crop yields may not be nearly as severe as sub-Saharan Africa, Afghanistan, or other places--some of which is because of economics and not climate, for sure--it's still something that needs to be taken seriously.