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Return of the Dust Bowl

twig's picture

Could there be a repeat of the 1930s Dust Bowl today? Yes, says Scientific American, citing the heat wave of the past few summers, plus lack of rain and near-empty aquifers in the Great Plains. From the article:

As of November 6, 59.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing persistent drought conditions that are most severe in the Great Plains—North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado—where drought is expected to persist or intensify in the foreseeable future. On October 17–18 those drought conditions combined with high winds to create a large dust storm across Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Wyoming, closing major highways.

Up until a few days ago, I, for one, would not have been hyperventilating over a second Dust Bowl, considering all the other shit hitting the fan these days. But that's because I did not understand how horrific the original Dust Bowl actually was. After watching Ken Burns' documentary, The Dust Bowl (which you can watch online at the link), it's obvious that a repeat of this disaster would have a huge ripple effect on the economy. Food shortages would be the most obvious problem. But the health crises caused by another Dust Bowl would be devastating for millions of people. Apparently, there are steps that could be taken to prevent DB2. The question is, will anyone take them. Again, from the SciAm article:

To Katharine Hayhoe, professor and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, this heralds big changes for agriculture on the Great Plains. "In a nutshell," Hayhoe says, "we're seeing major shifts in places and times we can plant, the types of crops we can grow and the pests and diseases we're dealing with. If you talk to seed companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and even farmers, they tell you we can modify our way out of this, that we can overcome all these problems with technology. There's no question we can adapt to some of the change, but whether we can adapt to all of it is a very open question."