Video: Chronicling The Extreme 2012 Drought

by Peter Sinclair, via Climate Change and the Media

A basketball metaphor illustrating changing stats pairs with analyses from a range of experts and independent commentaries in a Yale Forum video capturing the stresses of the summer’s weather anomalies across the U.S.:

“Oh the weather outside is frightful.”

You can forget about the next line … chances of snow are nil for most of the United States for the next several months.

It’s the first line of the second verse that might be a bit more relevant, though not very comforting: “It doesn’t show signs of stopping.”

Holiday carolers and those behind the “Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow” lyrics could not have had the nation’s 2012 spring and summer in mind when they penned those words.

But the wildfires plaguing much of the nation’s west … the wilting and widespread droughts across much of the country’s “Grain Belt”… the blistering high temperatures across wide swaths of the country — all those play out in The Yale Forum‘s new video, “2012 Drought Update.”

The eight-and-one-half minute video couples historical footage with contemporary clips and news segments. In one of the latter, for instance, NBC anchor Brian Williams opens the network’s flagship news program with the words: “It’s now official. We are living in one of the worst droughts of the past 100 years.”

This month’s “This Is Not Cool” video shows NASA scientist James Hansen early and later cautioning about risks of “extreme droughts” in the nation’s breadbasket, such as those now commanding headlines. It captures Illinois Governor Pat Quinn warning of “the driest time” and “the hottest weather” in his state’s history. West Lafayette, Indiana, newscasters express concerns about the growing percentage of the nation officially designated as being in a “drought condition.”

‘It’s not looking good for corn’

NOAA climate scientist Tom Karl tells a national television audience that scientists increasingly “can actually say with some confidence that these events would not have been as strong or as intense if it were not for the greenhouse gases I the atmosphere.”

And a Michigan State University crop and soil scientist, Phil Robertson, cautions that “it’s certainly not looking good for corn.” Robertson advises that genetics and new planting strategies might help the agricultural community cope with chronic changes in weather. But it’s the variability of longer heat waves and hard-to-predict seasonal droughts — more difficult to predict and having more critical effects on crops — that Robertson says might pose particular challenges.

The video — which points to a 118 degrees F day in June in Norton Dam, Kansas — uses a basketball metaphor to illustrate how a warmer atmosphere has “raised the floor …. all plays are starting from a higher level.” Making for more slam dunks and illustrating how “the stats have begun to change.”

But they’re not of the crowd-pleasing variety. And no one is rooting for more of the kinds of slam dunks Midwest farmers are trying to defend against in the summer of 2012.

Peter Sinclair runs the Climate Crock of the Week blog. This piece was originally published at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media and was reprinted with permission.

5 Responses to Video: Chronicling The Extreme 2012 Drought

  1. Paul Klinkman says:

    Maybe not in summer, but we’re having some bizarre snowstorms in the fall and spring. Last Halloween some people picked up 15 inches of snow with the leaves on the trees. It snapped huge numbers of tree branches and people lost power for days.

    Our extra-strong storms are capable of pulling polar air farther south at odd times. That’s probably how we get unusual snowstorms.

  2. Frank Zaski says:

    Kansas is the epicenter of the drought. All Kansas counties are designated emergency drought areas. Water tables are dropping, farmers, business and municipal water systems are having problems.

    But, there appear to be no restrictions on the millions of gallons of water oil companies are using to frack in Kansas. Oil companies are buying and draining farmer’s ponds, trucking in water from as far away as Pennsylvania and drilling their own wells which will further lower the water tables.

    This is the epitome of short sightedness. What’s wrong with Kansas?

  3. Ozonator says:

    In Baton Rouge, whatever was growing last year produced some crops this summer. I have replanted my garden several times to get stunted corn, sickly melon plants, slow growing okra, and late blooming hops.

  4. editec says:

    Of course given the range of “normal” weather over centuries, people my age (over 60) cannot say with certainty that “it’s getting hotter,” but it sure in heck seems to be. I think we’re just now beginning to see the kind of dramatic wealther events that even the brain dead deniers won’t be able to write off as “still with the standard deviation” of what even they think of as normal weather patterns.

  5. Frank Zaski says:

    I’m over 60 as well. Years ago, we could sleep thru the night here in Michigan with just screens in the open windows.

    Now we have to have the windows closed at night and the A/C on. The nights are warmer, more humid and the pollen count is higher.