‘The Dust Bowl of 2012’: Drought Covers Majority Of U.S. And ‘Might Be A $50 Billion Event For The Economy’

This year’s drought ranks as one of the top 10 worst U.S. droughts for the last century. With more than half the country (54 percent) experiencing drought conditions, it’s the single worst drought since the 1950s.

It is hot all over. NOAA said in its June “State of the Climate Global Analysis“:

This is the second month in a row that the global land temperature was the warmest on record for that month.

While it has been hotter than the 1930s in many places in this country, the drought hasn’t been quite as bad as the worst of the original Dust Bowl. But if we don’t act soon to slash greenhouse gas emissions, we are on our way to far worse as climate change fuels more frequent and more extreme droughts across the U.S. (see “We’re Already Topping Dust Bowl Temps — Imagine What’ll Happen If We Fail To Stop 10°F Warming“).

Climate Progress has documented how unrestrained fossil fuel pollution is leading to worsening droughts. Texas’ severe drought of the past memory was made 20 times more likely from global warming, as one study explained. The Nature article last year, “The Next Dust Bowl,” explained, “warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the Sun’s energy goes into baking the soil.”

Climatologist Jonathan Overpeck at Arizona University told the AP:

This is what global warming looks like at the regional or personal level. The extra heat increases the odds of worse heat waves, droughts, storms and wildfire. This is certainly what I and many other climate scientists have been warning about.

This drought is hitting farmers hard — and ranchers, too. As Reuters put it:

Ravaged by fires, Western ranchers face “scary” summer

… recent wildfires in states such as Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming have displaced thousands of cows from federal rangelands which may not be fit for grazing for years. Where range has not been destroyed, drought has lessened forage.

“We’re going to run out of grass. It’s shaping up to be scary,” University of Idaho Extension Agent Rauhn Panting said.

The next to be hit is the American consumer.The Agriculture Department has declared the largest federal disaster zone in its history for 26 states, as corn and grain crops dry up, particularly in the midwest where 63 percent of the midwest has moderate to extreme drought. Corn production shrunk 7 percent in the last week, according to a Reuters poll: “What began the season as a potentially record corn crop as farmers planted the biggest area since 1937, may now be the smallest in at least five years.”

Consumers will feel the drought’s burden through rising food prices:

“For sure, the full effect of this drought will not be until 2013. It’ll be 2013 when we see it and its in the whole supermarket,” Richard Volpe, an economist with the USDA’s Economic Research Service said. “But if the price of corn shoots up, we’d see this effect within about two to three months. That doesn’t mean we’ll see a complete jump into food prices. It’s just that we should start to see the effects.”

Michael Swanson, agricultural economist at the largest commercial agriculture lender, said:

It might be a $50 billion event for the economy as it blends into everything over the next four quarters.

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26 Responses to ‘The Dust Bowl of 2012’: Drought Covers Majority Of U.S. And ‘Might Be A $50 Billion Event For The Economy’

  1. Robert In New Orleans says:

    What is going to be like in five or ten years when the solar minimum ends?

  2. MorinMoss says:

    What will next year be like if we get an El Nino?

  3. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Next year is solar maximum for cycle 24, ME

  4. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Just how damaging would that revenue neutral carbon tax have been?

  5. Mike Roddy says:

    I fear that by the time the evidence is so overwhelming that everyone gets it and decides to act, it will be too late.

    A friend with close ties to the 1% says this is cool with them. They are perfectly aware of global warming dangers, in spite of what their idiots in the media like Watts, Pielke, and Revkin say, and they want a population crash. What the wealthy do not realize is that the feedbacks and disasters will be far worse than they imagine, and their fortresses in the Hamptons and Bel Air won’t protect them.

  6. Eileen workman says:

    Makes me wonder who all the climate change deniers will find to blame for the declining quality of their lives in a few more years….

  7. Eileen workman says:

    Makes me wonder who all the climate change deniers will find to blame for the declining quality of their lives in a few more years….

  8. BillD says:

    After a few days of extreme heat (upper 90’s) in my part of Indiana with extreme drought, we got half an inch of rain in 20 minutes yesterday. Almost enough to keep the deep rooted weeds in the lawn from dying. Also, this was a very small, scattered storm, but the first rain in about a month. Wonder if it will help keep my neighbor’s corn at 20% of a normal yield?

  9. Mike Roddy says:

    They will blame environmentalists for not allowing them to drill for more oil.

  10. Turboblocke says:

    They will blame population growth. On a different site I posted about a 20% increase in chicken feed prices since late last year. That’s of course due to crop failures last year and actual/predicted crop failures for this year reducing supply. However, according to the deniers, it’s due to increased demand thanks to those people in the 3rd world having too many babies and wanting to eat.

  11. Tom L says:

    And right on cue it’s Neil Cavuto!

  12. M Tucker says:

    “But if we don’t act soon to slash greenhouse gas emissions, we are on our way to far worse as climate change fuels more frequent and more extreme droughts across the U.S.”

    We are at about 392 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere and that is responsible for the extremes we have seen already including record snow falls in winter. So if we “slash” GHG emissions will that change anything? Will the climate recover? If we reduce emissions by 80% will the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere be reduced? NO! As long as we keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere the concentration will only go up. WE MUST END FOSSIL FUEL USE but we have a long, long time before the climate returns to some sort of preindustrial normal. Until we end fossil fuel use we will continue to have “more frequent and more extreme droughts” and other extreme weather events and wildfires. The oceans will continue to acidify. We will suffer water shortages and higher food prices. We will suffer power shortages and outages. We will suffer health problems. The environment will suffer biodiversity loss on land and sea. This is the problem we have created and we will suffer with for many generations to come. We can make the future better but so far all we have been able to do is make it worse.

  13. Lollipop says:

    Down here in central Indiana we got about .25 today. The corn is gone, but it might help the beans if we get more. Lots more.

  14. Ozonator says:

    A drought is a good thing for extremist Republicans and Christians. They are again caught waxing about the good ole days of the Great Depression. “NASA data shows Arctic was warmer in the 1930’s and warmed 75% faster … ‘ … warmer in 1930’s … Thus, alarmist claims … are bogus’” (racketeering found on 7/18/12) (Marc ‘Mengele’ Morano whistle-sucker perfuming the stink at

  15. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Uh oh. Be very very careful about what you hope for. Lots more? Remember the Queensland floods that broke our worst drought ever? ME

  16. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It is a common thread on the racist and xenophobic Right. Blame the subsistence consumption of the poor for the mess caused by the rich countries’ over-consumption. It is morally repellent, as one expects from these creatures, and deeply sinister as it prepares the psychopathic minds of the Right for a great population cull of ‘useless eaters’ in the poor world.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    We desperately need some model laws for crimes against humanity through destruction of the ecological suitability of the planet for our species, drawn up, ready for introduction. They must be retrospective, with no statute of limitations and target propaganda disinformation in particular, so that these monsters can sweat a little, in anticipation of just and condign punishment, one day.

  18. Ireland says:

    Why not do away with high fructose corn syrup and go back to sugar? That would help with the lack of corn crops and make the US a healthier place.

  19. Scooter says:

    And permit me to take this line of thinking a little further. When you say “no statute of limitations” do you really realize what you are saying? Lets put this to the test. Say we pass one of your laws with ensuing punishment. Since you say it needs to be retrospective, we would then need to go back to many retired 60 – 80 year old farmers for the ecological destruction they caused with farming practices in the 30’s – 60’s and try them all for crimes against humanity. Why? Simple, while the way they were farming may have been acceptable back in those days, science has since proven it to have disastrous outcomes for the earth ecologically. Good show, you just punished a bunch of people for doing something that was considered the best way for them to practice their trade at that point in time. This is such a simple argument. You don’t pass laws and then apply punishments RETROACTIVELY. It’s unjust. We have laws already in place specifically to prevent this. Your goal should be to fix the problem and move FORWARD. Not dwell on what has already happened in the past which you can’t change.

  20. malcreado says:

    Corn is looking real bad here in Central IL. 10 day weather outlook is no rain and mid to high 90’s. Talking with a farmer today he said if that holds you can kiss what is left of the corn good bye.

  21. malcreado says:

    No rain here but in Narsarsuaq, Greenland they will have a high of 63 and 50% chance of rain tomorrow.

    Me thinks this will end badly…

  22. Scooter says:

    So what’s the reason for removing my first comment? No curse words, no inflammatory language, no directed insults. Me-thinks someone can’t tolerate having their opinions questioned. Sad, sad little person.

  23. Scooter says:

    Nevermind about that last comment. Apparently the website was having some problems and not loading all comments for a while. It appears to be fixed now.

  24. Scooter says:

    Very simple, Corn is a much more versatile crop. In addition, it doesn’t need good tropical conditions to produce high yields and you can’t use sugarcane for livestock feed. To try to replace corn with Sugarcane is simply impossible. In addition, try looking at how many things corn is used in next time you visit the grocery store. It’s not just the sugar, it’s in EVERYTHING. It’s also a much hardier crop. A drought like the one we are currently experiencing would’ve left sugarcane fields a barren wasteland over a month ago.

  25. Scooter says:

    Sorry to be a downer, but we’re right in the middle of a solar maximum cycle that is predicted to peak in 2012-2014.

    What I would say that’s not so comforting however is that the current solar cycle has been a lot more tame than the one back in 1999 – 2001.

  26. Tim Palmer says:


    What you are proposing is an ex post facto law ie. one that makes something illegal, that was previously legal, retroactively.

    This is explicitley forbidden by the US Constitution, Article I, Section 9: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed”.