Posts Tagged ‘drought’

Drought sends ‘mighty Mississippi River’ levels near record lows
CNN online 20 July 2012


The “mighty Mississippi” has lost some of its might with the season’s epic drought taking its toll on river levels, which are falling to near historic lows. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will spend nearly $7 million dredging in an attempt to keep ports operational and keep the river open for barge traffic in the coming weeks.

River levels in Memphis have dropped to within three feet of their historic lows from the 1988 drought. In just one year, the river has gone through extreme fluctuation. Last May, it was within a foot of its record-high crest because of massive flooding, and today it’s 55 feet lower and experiencing historic lows due to drought.

Last year the expanse of the water was over 3 miles wide in parts of Missouri and Arkansas as levees were blown up in order to help protect the town of Cairo, Illinois from flood waters. This year shows a much different story with the river less than a half mile wide in spots.

New data from U.S. Drought Monitor issued Thursday shows the drought has worsened in the past week, and now ranks as the second worst drought in U.S. history over the lower 48 since records began in 1895.

And the Army Corps said that the shrinking of the Mississippi means that saltwater is beginning to work its way upriver, which could threaten some water supplies.

http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/19/drought-sends-mighty-mississippi-river-levels-near-record-lows/

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Widespread Drought is Likely to Worsen
The New York Times online
July 19, 2012

The drought that has settled over more than half of the continental United States this summer is the most widespread in more than half a century. And it is likely to grow worse.

The latest outlook released by the National Weather Service on Thursday forecasts increasingly dry conditions over much of the nation’s breadbasket, a development that could lead to higher food prices and shipping costs as well as reduced revenues in areas that count on summer tourism. About the only relief in sight was tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico and the Southeast that could bring rain to parts of the South.

The unsettling prospects come at a time of growing uncertainty for the country’s economy. With evidence mounting of a slowdown in the economic recovery, this new blow from the weather is particularly ill-timed.

Already some farmers are watching their cash crops burn to the point of no return. Others have been cutting their corn early to use for feed, a much less profitable venture.

The government has declared one-third of the nation’s counties — 1,297 of them across 29 states — federal disaster areas as a result of the drought, which will allow farmers to apply for low-interest loans to get them through the disappointing growing season.

What is particularly striking about this dry spell is its breadth. Fifty-five percent of the continental United States — from California to Arkansas, Texas to North Dakota — is under moderate to extreme drought, according to the government, the largest such area since December 1956.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/20/science/earth/severe-drought-expected-to-worsen-across-the-nation.html?pagewanted=all

Flames travel along the floor of the forest near the town of Voronezh: AP/Mikhail Metzel

Reuters Africa online, 1 August 2010:

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill asked Russians to pray for rain on Sunday as wildfires raged across the European parts of the vast country, sweltering since June in an unprecedented heatwave.

The hottest weather since records began 130 years ago has withered crops and pushed thousands of farmers to the verge of bankruptcy.

“Grief has come to our nation, human lives have been lost, hundreds have lost shelter and thousands have been left without sustenance, including many children,” national media quoted Patriarch Kirill as saying in a prayer during a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod region, one of the worst hit by fires.

“I call upon everyone to unite in a prayer for rain to descend on our earth.”

At least 28 people have died in wildfires in European Russia in the last few days, the Emergencies Ministry said, adding that by Sunday morning a total of 774 fires had been registered, including 369 ones that occurred since Saturday.

More than 5,200 people have been evacuated from disaster-stricken regions, it said.

“The threat of new fires has increased sharply due to unfavourable weather in a number of regions in the Central and Volga federal districts, with temperatures soaring to up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) and winds of up to 20 metres per second,” the Emergencies Ministry said.

The drought in Russia, one of the world’s biggest wheat exporters, has sent global prices soaring to year highs. U.S. wheat futures rose more than 5 percent on Friday and posted the biggest monthly percentage gain since at least 1959.(emphasis added)

Around 240,000 people were battling the flames, the Emergencies Ministry said. Army units, including elite paratroops, were taking part in the fight. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to allocate 5 billion roubles (105.2 million pounds) to help fire victims.

(Reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE66T0SW20100801?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0

USDA Foreign Agricultural Service
Commodity Intelligence Report June 10, 2010

Agricultural scientists at the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative (BGRI) and the International Center for Agricultural Research for the Dry Areas (ICARDA) have reported that a major outbreak of a virulent new strain of yellow (stripe) rust has been identified in prime Middle Eastern wheat growing regions. The outbreak has reached epidemic proportions in Syria’s major grain producing provinces bordering Turkey and Iraq, with significant national crop losses expected.

Outbreaks have also been reported in central and southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, north, west and southern Iran, and in Lebanon. Outside the Middle East, yellow rust outbreaks have also been identified in Morocco, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan this year.

The current outbreak is primarily affecting soft bread wheat varieties, which form the backbone of the regions wheat crop. Hard wheat’s such as Durum are also grown in the region, but these varieties are a minority of total acreage. Scientists report that the new strain of yellow rust has plagued soft wheat crops that were previously resistant to the fungus owing to the incorporation of the gene Yr27. This implies that the majority of soft wheat grown in the region is under threat until newer resistant varieties are developed. The last major outbreak of yellow rust in the region was reported in the late 1980’s, resulting in a 21 percent reduction in regional wheat production.

Prior to the announcement of the current rust epidemic, wheat production in the Middle East was expected to rebound from several years of drought to a level of 41.1 million tons (an increase of 12 percent). The generally favorable environmental conditions which prevailed during the current winter growing season which would normally create bumper crop production potential, including above normal rainfall, mild winter temperatures, and lush crop growth, also apparently contributed to enhancing the spread of yellow rust and the severity of infection this season. Ideal meteorological conditions encouraged rapid development of yellow rust infections, massive spore production, and a lengthy period of time to infect regional crops.

http://www.pecad.fas.usda.gov/highlights/2010/06/Middle%20East/