As Bad as During the 1930s Dust Bowl?
The progress of the drought has been horrific:
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:
Unfortunately, the one certainty is higher food prices.
Long-Term Historical Trends
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.”
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]
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:
Fortunately, we haven’t seen anything that bad in recent times.
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:
- We should use benign technology – and not cures which are worse than the ailments (like sending nearly microscopic particles of specially made glass into the Earth’s upper atmosphere or cutting down trees and burying them) – to address climate
- Reducing soot is crucial … and economically feasible
- Imposing fascism is never justified
- Downsizing the military is vital