2011 May Ring in Record Droughts
Water security has become an incredibly important topic for many governments and environmentalists. Without water, there would be no life on Earth, and while there has been some efforts towards water conservation, world wide water shortage may happen sooner than anticipated. Based on various climate prediction centers, 2011 appears as though it will bring in severe droughts around the world.
In the US, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center recently released drought targets for 2011. While most of the north US appears to be drought free, much of the southeast and southwest seems to either remain at the same level of drought or see a significant increase. Droughts in Colorado have dried up many of the Colorado River’s tributaries and resulted in the lowest water levels of Lake Mead since 1937. Should the lake decrease another eight feet (it is currently at a mere 130 feet deep), federal officials will declare a shortage on the river that would cut Nevada’s river share by six percent [Source: My Fox Phoneix]. Grass fires have already sparked across the state of Missouri and are beginning to affect dairy farmers. While some pastures had already been supplemented with water from creeks, the drought has dried up many of the local creeks and prices of livestock feed have begun creeping upwards [Source: WLBT]. It isn’t only in the US, though, where farmers are facing the side effects of drought. Countries across the world are seeing the effects of warmer temperatures and less rainfall. Russia and Ukraine winter crops could not be sown during the normal month of July, and instead the farmers had to wait until August. This has forced Russia to ban wheat exports until December while Ukraine has begun thinking of imposing export quotas [Source: Today's Zaman]. More than half of Uganda’s population will suffer from severe food shortage in February 2011 due to drought that will not only destroy crops, but livestock as well [Source: New York Times]. Even in Brazil, there is the dry weather has led the sugar industry to lower their sugar cane yields to 60 million tons. This has increased the price of sugar from 14 cents a pount to 25 cents with forecasts of in February 2011 reaching 30 cents a pound [Source: Reuters]. Another major Brazilian export, coffee, is also facing hardships due to drought and many coffee farmers expect the 2011 harvest to be smaller than the already decreased 2010 harvest of 47.2 million 60-kg bag crop [Source: Fox Business].
Despite the bad news, governmental entities are looking for ways to help alleviate drought problems for the future.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) has created the Coping With Drought (CWD) within the US and US transboundary areas that will provide research, tool development (early warning systems) and decision support for water and resource managers. On top of that, the Modeling, Analysis, Prediction and Projection (MAPP) Program plans to develop the next-generation Integrated Drought Prediction System. This proposed system will incorporate research advances in climate prediction and land-surface and hydrologic modeling and data assimilation .Researchers are also banding together and hosting a symposium in Indiana in 2011. The symposium will focus on data-driven approaches for characterizing, understanding and modeling droughts and attract studies that demonstrate how the new knowledge base created from the cyberinfrastructure for data collection, when combined with visualization techniques, leads to improved understanding and practical applications [Source: driNET]. Agricultural companies, like Pioneer Hi-Bred, have created a strain of drought resistant plants that will potentially increase crop yield up to 6 percent. The Drought I hybrids will be released in 2011 with the Drought II hybrids appearing within the upcoming decade [Source: Farm Industry News].
With Russia and the Ukraine out of the picture in terms of grain export, the US will actually increase their production and output. The USDA expects a 5.1 percent increase in agricultural export to roughly $311 billion “and provide opportunities for U.S. expansion in the Middle East and North Africa” [Source: AG Network]. Unfortunately, with much of the southern, midwest and western states already experiencing or about to experience severe drought, prices of these crops have also increased:
- Corn: Up 63%
- Wheat: Up 84%
- Soybeans: Up 24%
- Sugar: Up 55% [Source: Daily Reckoning]
As droughts continue to increase, water won’t be the only shortage in the world, food will as well. As the human population begins to grow, drought and food shortages will be the major hurdle to maintain the populous. It won’t be too long until water becomes a sought after commodity.