Drought, Blistering Temperatures and Raging Fires: Are We Screwed? 5 Facts You Should Know
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"This drought is two-pronged," said climatologist Brian Fuchs, a U.S. Drought Monitor author. "Not only the dryness but the heat is playing a big and important role. Even areas that have picked up rain are still suffering because of the heat."
3. It's a disaster. The drought has hit Plains states and the Midwest particularly hard, affecting a large number of the country's farmers. The USDA has declared 1,369 counties in 31 states as disaster areas. Of those, 1,234 were the result of drought.
Food prices are expected to rise next year as a result. As James West writes for Climate Desk:
One estimate says that the US, the biggest player in the world corn market, could slash world corn supply by 60 billion tons as a result of the drought. Looking further afield, food prices in the US have a big impact not only on prices around the world, but also on the potential for social unrest in developing countries.
4. Greenland has experienced unprecedented melting. You may not be planning on vacationing in Greenland anytime soon -- but what happens in the icy country has world-wide implications. NASA reported, "On average in the summer, about half of the surface of Greenland's ice sheet naturally melts. At high elevations, most of that melt water quickly refreezes in place. Near the coast, some of the melt water is retained by the ice sheet and the rest is lost to the ocean. But this year the extent of ice melting at or near the surface jumped dramatically."
Scientists were stunned to learn that nearly the entirety ( 97 percent) of Greenland's ice sheet has shown signs of melting. To be clear, the whole icesheet has not completely melted into the ocean, but what's been observed is enough to raise a lot of concern. Seth Borenstein wrote for the AP:
About the same time, a giant iceberg broke off from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland. And the National Snow and Ice Data Center on Tuesday announced that the area filled with Arctic sea ice continues near a record low.
Wagner and other scientists said because this Greenland-wide melting has happened before they can't yet determine if this is a natural rare event or one triggered by man-made global warming. But they do know that the edges of Greenland's ice sheets have already been thinning because of climate change.
5. Get used to fires -- bigger, hotter, longer fires. As William DeBuys recently wrote for TomDispatch, "A lethal combination of drought, insect plagues, windstorms, and legions of dead, dying, or stressed-out trees constitute what some pundits are calling wildfire's 'perfect storm.'" But DeBuys cautions that it's not really a "storm" in the sense that it's not "sudden, violent, and temporary." No, the conditions that are feeding fire seasons are really what many scientists think will be the "new normal."
In June alone, the NCDC reported that over 1.3 million acres were burned by wildfires:
By the end of June, wildfire activity exploded across much of the country, with 57 large wildfires burning. Six large fires were burning across the Virginias, North Carolina, and Tennessee, where dry conditions contributed to low 100-hour fuel moistures. Forty five large fires were active in the Intermountain West, from Arizona to Montana.
And it seems fires are on track to get even worse. As DeBuys writes:
Big fires are four times more common than they used to be; the biggest fires are six-and-a-half times larger than the monster fires of yesteryear; and owing to a warmer climate, fires are erupting earlier in the spring and subsiding later in the fall. Nowadays, the fire season is two and a half months longer than it was 30 years ago.