A historic drought that began 8 months ago continues. Though this massive drought is slowly receding at the edges, covering 59% of the contiguous US, 1% less than last week, the drought is expanding and intensifying at its heart. More than 6% of the United States is suffering under exceptional drought, the most severe drought level. And more than 19% of the country is suffering under extreme drought conditions or worse.
Unfortunately, the area of extreme drought conditions is parked squarely over the United States breadbasket. Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Minnesota are the hardest hit states. As a result the US wheat crop is under increasingly severe risk. Soil moisture levels are plummeting and many areas are experiencing top ten hottest and driest months for this time of year. Surface water reserves were also growing more and more scarce. As as a result, grazing regions for livestock are drying out.
For Texas and Oklahoma, this is the second major drought in as many years. For the US west, the time period from 2000 to now has been the fifth driest period in 500 years, experiencing a succession of droughts and dry spells. Climate models have indicated that droughts would become more frequent over time as human caused climate change worsened. Unfortunately, conditions over the next few decades will only continue to grow worse — far moreso if human fossil fuel emissions are not dramatically cut back. By the time 2050 rolls around, without serious cuts in CO2, the US heartland is all mostly desert. A transition to these extreme conditions would be devastating to US food and national security.
Globally, the world has experienced severe droughts in growing regions of the US, Europe, and Russia. The result is very low worldwide grain stocks. The UN has warned that if any more ‘unforeseen events’ occur, the world will almost certainly slip into a food crisis. Global governments and leaders continue to ignore warnings from climate scientists and food monitors. This situation is unconscionable and, if it worsens, will likely result in crisis, sporadic and growing hunger, and political instability.