Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Worst Texas Drought in 44 Years Hits U.S. Wheat, Beef Supply"

You can't say you didn't see this one coming.*
From Bloomberg:
The worst Texas drought in 44 years is damaging the state’s wheat crop and forcing ranchers to reduce cattle herds, as rising demand for U.S. food sends grain and meat prices higher.

Texas, the biggest U.S. cattle producer and second-largest winter-wheat grower, got just 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) of rain on average in the five months through February, the least for the period since 1967, State Climatologist John Nielsen- Gammon said. More than half the wheat fields and pastures were rated in poor or very poor condition on March 20.

Dry conditions extending to Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado may cut crop yields in the U.S., the world’s largest exporter, as too much moisture threatens fields in North Dakota and in Canada. Wheat futures in Chicago are up 50 percent in the past year, after drought in Russia and floods in Australia hurt output and sent global food prices surging. Wholesale beef reached a record this week, and the U.S. cattle herd in January was the smallest since 1958.

“We’re probably already seeing some damage, but in the next couple of weeks, we’ll surely go downhill major if we don’t get some rain,” said David Cleavinger, who is irrigating 75 percent of his 1,000 acres (405 hectares) of wheat in Wildorado, Texas. “With the prices we’re seeing, we’re trying to hold on, but there’s nothing that takes the place of a rainstorm.”...MORE
We had a couple posts that might have been a heads-up
January 27, 2011 
Drought Monitor: Texas Drought Expands
Also in January we posted "Wheat Up Again as Cold Drought Grip China, La Nina Resumes Downtrend" that said (map updated to this week):
In the U.S. drought is intensifying in Texas and into the Southeast:

NOTE: To view regional drought conditions, click on map below. State maps can be accessed from regional maps.
US Drought Monitor, January 18, 2011

This is typical of cold PDO and warm Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation combinations, as we saw in our April 2008 post "Um, folks, um, maybe we should start thinking about rebuilding our grain reserves.":

...North American Drought
Drought over north America has been correlated to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.
North American drought frequency
The relationship between drought in the continental US and the phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). The most severe droughts occur when the PDO is in a negative phase, and the AMO is in a positive phase.
From McCabe (2004).

Also from spring 2008 (the last time we had this PDO-ENSO combination)...
The other bit of nastiness to be expected from cold PDO/lingering La Nina is a wilder tornado season than we saw last year with the tornado activity being farther north than the usual Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas targets.

The upper Midwest and Ohio River valley could bear the brunt this year, last night's Pennsylvania twister may foreshadow the season.
See also:

"NASA Explains the Dust Bowl Drought"
The study found cooler than normal tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures combined with warmer tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures to create conditions in the atmosphere that turned America's breadbasket into a dust bowl from 1931 to 1939. The team's data is in this week's Science magazine....