Climate Change News: Drought, Heat and a Converted Skeptic

Written by Stephanie Hedean on . Posted in Extreme weather, Learn, The Wonk Room

Climate Change News is a Planet Change selection of the latest news on climate change, nature, our environment and the impacts of a changing planet. Here’s what we’ve found and are reading. Tell us what interesting news has hit your screens this week.

Drought in the U.S., Food and Global Insecurity
The national Drought Monitor recently declared a drought for almost 80% of the contiguous United States, ranging in intensity from “abnormally dry” to “drought-exceptional.” The U.S. Department of Agriculture followed by declaring disasters in 26 U.S. states. But while the drought is obviously a serious concern for the U.S., it also has worrying implications for other countries that are tied to the U.S. through the global food market. (The Center for Climate and Security)

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math
If the pictures of those towering wildfires in Colorado haven’t convinced you, or the size of your AC bill this summer, here are some hard numbers about climate change: June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe. (Rolling Stone)

The Conversion of a Climate Change Skeptic
By Richard A. Muller – Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause. (New York Times Op-Ed)

Aerial views of drought affected Colorado farm lands, 74 miles east of Denver on July 21, 2012.

Drought Pushing Record Grain Prices
Oppressive heat and a worsening drought in the U.S. Midwest pushed grain prices near or past records  as crops wilted, cities baked and concerns grew about food and fuel price inflation in the world’s top food exporter. Soybean prices at the Chicago Board of Trade set a record high and corn closed near a record as millions of acres of crops seared in triple-digit heat in the Corn Belt. Cornfields have been plowed up in many locations for lack of rain. (Reuters)

European Heat Wave Reducing Corn Yields
Heat waves in southern Europe are withering the corn crop and reducing yields in a region that accounts for 16 percent of global exports at a time when U.S. drought already drove prices to a record. The heat wave in Europe is adding to concern about global food supplies as U.S. farmers face the worst drought since 1956, India delays sowing because of a late monsoon and Australian crops endure below-average rainfall. (Bloomberg)

Climate Change’s Costs Hit the Plate
In the past few years, agricultural scientists have shown that crops critical to humankind’s caloric supply – including corn and soybeans – are extremely sensitive to even short periods of high temperature. Output of these crops increases as the temperature rises to about 30 Celsius, but then it falls sharply as the temperature keeps rising. For instance, just one day of 40-degree weather will produce a 7-per-cent drop in the annual yield of corn compared with its yield if the temperature stays at 29 through the growing season. (The Globe and Mail)

Heat Wave Killed 3.2 Million Laying Hens
According to Kreher’s Farm Fresh Eggs, during the Midwest heat wave prior to the July 4th holiday, roughly 3.2 million laying hens were killed.  Additional heat in this area is continuing to hurt productivity and egg size.  In the past weeks, the egg inventory has dropped 6.9% and is likely to impact the industry for the next 6 to 9 months. (Utica Observer Dispatch)

World Grain Prices Triggering Contract Defaults
Grains suppliers are starting to default on previously agreed sales to major importers, including top wheat buyer Egypt, rather than deliver on contracts that are now losing money because of the huge rally in prices sparked by the U.S. drought. The drought is wilting crops in the U.S. Midwest and sending prices soaring, with corn alone surging by 50 per cent in the past month. Soybeans have also hit record highs, with wheat not far behind. (Reuters)


Stephanie Hedean is a Strategic Marketing and Communications Consultant and a Volunteer at The Nature Conservancy.

Photo credits: Lance Cheung, USDA (Colorado drought), Warmest Regards (laying hens in field), Phae (hen) via Flickr Creative Commons license. National Drought Map: Richard Hein, NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC,

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