Thursday, October 21, 2010

South and Midwest: 'We are waiting for rain to come'

An extreme drought across nine states in the Southeast and Midwest is having demonstrative impact on the agriculture industry. The drought is "damaging crops, driving up the cost of keeping livestock and putting officials on alert for wildfires," Cameron McWhirter of The Wall Street Journal reports. "Climatologists say the dry weather likely will continue at least until spring, raising the possibility of prolonged drought in some areas next summer." The drought is affecting parts of Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Florida and southern Indiana.

"Six months from now, we could be in a fairly significant drought situation throughout the Southeast," said Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, a federally funded center at the University of Nebraska that monitors drought conditions across the U.S. "The general pattern is going to show worsening." The center is expected to release data today showing those areas are suffering from "extreme drought," meaning they are experiencing the worst prolonged shortage of rain expected in a 25-year period, McWhirter writes. (WSJ map)

"One cause of the dryness is La Niña, a cooling of water temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean that has brought drier weather to the southeastern U.S. over the past several months," McWhirter writes. A lack of major hurricanes or tropical storms this year has also contributed to the shortage of rain. Fuchs told McWhirter in the coming months he expects more areas to be added to the extreme drought category, second in severity to exceptional drought. "I go outside every day, water my flowers and pray over them," Mason, Tenn., farmer Marvene Twisdale said. "We are waiting for rain to come." (Read more)

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