It’s that time of year when Fox News and other conservative media outlets revive their imaginary “War on Christmas.” But the actual threat to one Christmas tradition comes from something more insidious than Fox’s perceived attacks: Extreme drought, fueled by climate change, has hit the Christmas tree market.
2012’s relentless drought will likely last through the rest of the winter, at least in the midwest, as areas under severe drought expanded in November. Right now, 63 percent of the lower 48 states are experiencing drought conditions:
The prolonged drought has hurt the growth of newly planted trees, which take years six to 12 years to reach full height. The more mature trees have developed root systems to survive little water, meaning growers expect normal supply for the holiday season. Since the youngest trees lack enough water to develop their roots, they die off quickly.
The Star Tribune writes that in Minnesota, “the dry late summer and fall killed many young trees — perhaps 40 percent, said Will Almendinger, owner of Rum River Tree Farm in Anoka County. In other parts of the Midwest, it appears to have taken all of them, said Bert Cregg, a Michigan State University horticulture professor.” Much of Oklahoma, for example, is under exception drought, experiencing its seventh-driest year on record. At the same time, Oklahoma’s tree farms have dwindled in number. Minnesota farmers worry about tree supply in years to come, after two exceptionally dry and hot summers.
The worst drought in 50 years has had a surprising impact on more than just Christmas. Food banks announced before Thanksgiving that the drought is shrinking government food donations.