This year was supposed to set new records for Russian grain production. But that was before a persistent trough in the Jet Stream funneled storm after storm over the Ukraine through Western and Central Russia setting off record extreme rainfall events. Before a swarm of locusts invading further north earlier than is typical ravaged over 170,000 ares of corn in Southern Russia. Now the combined insect plague and stormy weather has put cereal crops at risk of shortfalls.
Planting Season Disrupted by Severe Rains
(A big polar amplification enhanced dip in the Jet Stream over Central and Western Russia set off record heavy rains during May, putting the cereal growing season in jeopardy. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)
For Western and Central Russia, May was a terrible month for planting season. Warming in the Arctic aided in the generation of numerous high amplitude Jet Stream waves. These waves, in turn, generated a deep trough zone over Central and Western Russia. As with many recent climate change related weather features, the trough stuck around. And a series of seemingly endless storms dumped between 2 and 6 times the normal amount of rainfall over Russia’s most productive growing zone.
The rains prevented or slowed the rate of seed planting. For Central Russia, planting all but halted. Now some estimates are hinting that Russia may miss its record grain harvest target. Andrey Sizov Jr., managing director at consultant SovEcon in Moscow stated to AGWeb today that:
“There’s too much rain. Planting all but stopped in the center. If rains continue, there will be no record” grain crop.
Locust Swarm Devours 10 Percent of Southern Russia’s Corn Crop
(A massive locust swarm blackens the skies over Southern Russia. The early swarm is already reported to have devoured a big portion of the region’s corn crop — prompting officials there to declare a state of emergency.)
New doubts over Russia’s grain harvest also emerged after media reports indicated that 10 percent or 170,000 ares of Southern Russia’s corn crop was destroyed by a massive swarm of locusts during late May and early June. The swarm is part of an annual arrival of the insects from North Africa. But this year, warmer than normal weather conditions — enhanced by the hot air dredged up ahead of the rainy trough to the north — are thought to have spurred breeding, swelled the size of the swarm, and aided in its early arrival.
Last year, a voracious locust swarm also devoured a significant portion of Southern Russia’s crops during mid to late summer. Sadly, the swarm this year has likely only just gotten started — meaning that with most of summer ahead, there’s a risk that the swarm will continue to expand for weeks or even months.
Farmers have attempted to control the insects through the use of pesticides and by lighting fires over swarming fields. But the locusts, which can grow to the size of small bird and eat their weight in food every day, are both tough and resilient. This year’s early swarm was so intense that local officials have now declared a state of emergency.
Conditions in Context
Human forced climate change both has the increased potential to set off extreme rainfall events and to extend the period of time during which swarming insects like locusts can move and breed. Heat creeping northward also expands the range of locust swarms even as extreme heat, drought, and heavy rainfall events can increase insects tendency to gather into large groups rather than forage individually.
During recent months, numerous trough zones around the globe have produced extreme and record rainfall events related to human caused climate change. The Central and Western Russia rains add to extreme flooding in Germany, France, and over Southeastern Texas to generate a global context of ongoing climate disruption. Disruptions that have in total flooded hundreds of homes injured dozens and resulted in related losses of life. A new kind of weather hazard that is, when combined with a huge early swarm of warming-enflamed locusts, is now threatening the Russian growing season.
But Russia isn’t the only region whose crops are feeling the sting of all the climate change related extreme weather. In France, record rains there have put the wheat crop in danger. In the UK, crops have been impacted by drought. In Argentina, 4 to 8 million tons of soy have been lost due to flooding. In India, drought has cut off water to 330 million people, forced farmers to abandon their livelihoods and seek refuge in a growing diaspora to the cities. In the US, California agriculture is still reeling under the effects of a four year drought. And with a record heatwave emerging over the US West on Friday even as Texas continued to be buried under rains, the litany of crop disrupting weather just seems to go on and on.
Hat tip to Colorado Bob
Hat tip to Kalypso
Hat tip to DT Lange