Whether you are a Farmer, Gardener, City, Town or County dweller, you will feel, see and taste the effects of another La Nina year combined with the very real possibility of a warming climate. La Nina and warming climate conditions has caused record breaking droughts in the south and southwest U.S. and flooding in the U.S. corn belt, northwest, mid-west and eastern U.S.
This long running drought is forcing many small farmers into foreclosure and bankruptcy. Driving the cost of fresh food, food grains and livestock feeds to all time highs. Even in the few areas of the U.S. that have an abundance of underground water, pumping that much water is not a viable option. It simply cost more to pump irrigation water than farmers will make at harvest time.
Meteorologists say people living on Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico parched plains could see more dust storms as a record drought tightens its grip across the Southwest. At least six sandstorms hit Phoenix this summer, with the most powerful measuring a mile high.
A towering wall of billowing red dust roaring across the blue West Texas sky took Monroe Debusk (Known by be for 60+ years) back more than eight decades to the Dust Bowl years (1930′ and again in the 1950’s) when he was growing up on his family’s cotton farm. Monroe now a 90 year old farmer looked out his window Monday and saw the sky darken as a rare 1.5 mile (8,000 foot) tall, 250 mile long dust cloud stretched across the rain starved land and blotted out the sun.
One expert said “Dust storms form when wind whips up loose soil. They aren’t unusual in West Texas, although the size and speed of Monday’s cloud was rare. Typically, the wall of dirt climbs to only about 1,000 feet in that area, not the 8,000 feet seen with the latest storm.”
A meteorologists said “The wind picked up with a drop in pressure along the edge of a fast-moving cold front, a pattern that typically happens in the fall and winter. When the dust cloud hit winds speeds reached 74 mph in some places and visibility was far less than (1,000 feet) a quarter of a mile. The wind knocked down tree limbs, which fell on utility lines, knocking out power to about 210,000 people. Dust lingered in the air afterward, filling people’s ears and nostrils and leaving grit in their teeth. A layer of dirt covered the pavement, cars and anything else left outside.
Dust storms could become more common as Texas’ drought continues. The state just finished its driest 12 months ever and was blistered by triple digit heat until early September 2011. This year is on track to be the driest in Texas history, with the average rainfall in the first nine months about 25 percent less than in the same period in 1956, the previous driest year in Texas recorded weather records, when 11.23 inches fell. So far 2011 West Texas has had just 3.16 inches of rain since January 1, 2011.
Two other farming techniques that have helped limit dust storms aren’t an option this year. Typically, farmers leave plants in fields after the harvest to help hold the soil in place. They also plant other crops, called cover crops, after the harvest to give the soil something to hang onto in late fall and winter. This year, there are few plants to leave in fields after farmers abandoned to the drought cotton crops that’s one of the region’s major crops. And, there’s been no rain to grow cover crops.
Shawn Wade, a spokesman for a group of cotton producers in the region, said “the lack of ground cover could have contributed to Monday’s dust storm. Certainly, it had some impact on the end result.”
There is also concern that other advances since the Dust Bowl could be in jeopardy. Water in the Ogallala Aquifer has been diminishing for years, (very near pumped dry in some areas) causing worry in north Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and other states that rely heavily on it. Funding for the federal (CRP program) Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to keep land at high risk of erosion out of production, is in jeopardy as Congress looks to cut costs.
Why is common sense so Uncommon?
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