America’s Megadrought and its Potential Impact on American Consumers

While we are distracted with the fear porn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation of great concern to the producers of our food is unfolding with very little meaningful recognition by the mainstream media, particularly given its seriousness.

Here is a recent news item from Fox6 in Milwaukee:

Let's look at the actual data from the United States Drought Monitor for the western United States:

Here is a table showing the data behind the map:

In mid-March 2021, 20.61 percent of the western United States was considered to be in an exceptional drought situation, down from 22.16 percent at the end of December 2020 but up from 0 percent in March 2020.  In total, 39.49 percent of the western United States is considered to be in an extreme or exceptional drought, down from 46.63 percent just prior to Christmas 2020 but, again up substantially from 0 percent in March 2020.

Here is the latest drought summary for the western United States with my bolds:

"A slight expansion of severe drought (D2) was made to northeast Montana, based on 90-day SPI (standardized precipitation index) and soil moisture below the 10th percentile. These low soil moisture conditions are related to the lack of snowfall this winter. In contrast to the northern high Plains, snow water content is running close to average for late March and led to the elimination of abnormal dryness (D0) across south-central Montana. Since parts of western Arizona and southeast California have received little to no precipitation during the past two month, D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) drought were slightly increased. This expansion of D3-D4 was supported by 9-month SPI values which covers the failed 2020 monsoon and this past winter. An expansion of D2 (severe) and extreme (D3) drought across parts of southern California was based on large water year to date precipitation deficits and 6-month SPI values. No other changes were made at this time to the remainder of California as 6 to 12 month SPIs generally support the current depiction and snow water content is running near two-thirds of average for the Sierra Nevada Mountains. During subsequent weeks, the drought depiction will be reassessed across California. Although much of the precipitation this past week fell along the coast or over the Cascades, a reassessment of longer term SPIs dating back 6 to 12 months supported removal of the D2 (severe) drought in southwest Oregon. Due in part to recent high-elevation snow and rainfall during the past two weeks, a slight decrease in D3 (extreme) and D4 (exceptional) drought was made to northern and northeast New Mexico. However, widespread D4 persists across southeast New Mexico where dust storms have been quite frequent this month and soil moisture remains in the lowest one percentile."

Let's look at the drought situation for the entire continental United States.  Here is a map showing the drought situation for March 24, 2020:

Here is what the drought situation looked like by the beginning of August 2020:

Here is what the drought situation looked like at the end of December 2020:

Lastly, here is what the drought situation looks like now:

Given that, historically speaking, drought conditions in the continental United States tend to be very low during the early part of the year, the fact that an extreme drought is currently plaguing the west is of great concern for food producers of all types and for consumers and, given the current stresses in the world's supply chains, we may well find that significant food price inflation will result in even greater financial strain on American farmers and for American and Canadian consumers.

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