It may not be in dictionaries yet, but there’s a word combination being used these days to explain an increasingly common weather condition — “flash drought.” It’s being used by the media and climatologists alike to describe the current drought hitting the Midwest in particular, because this dry spell arrived in a matter of weeks and quickly destroyed an otherwise promising growing season.
Remember the drought of 2011 — the wildfires, the parched lands, the debilitating impact on farmers and ranchers. This year it’s all that and more widespread. Currently, two-thirds of the U.S. is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions — and forecasters aren’t expecting it to let up anytime soon.
It’s interesting that in many areas of the nation’s so-called breadbasket, there were some pretty good spring rains, so a lot of farmers entered this summer expecting improved yields. In mid-June, the U.S. Department of Agriculture listed 17 percent of the nation’s croplands under severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions, but by mid-July, that had increased to 39 percent.
Expect the impact of the flash drought to be great. For consumers, the price of food will go up, and while that’s going to hurt the average American household, and the U.S. economy, it will be worse in other regions of the world. Political and social unrest is often associated with the availability of food, so this year’s droughts may indeed spur tomorrow’s rebellions.
Of course, the cause of such weather phenomena is a sensitive issue.
Scientific evidence and empirical data overwhelmingly points to one thing — climate change — but still there lingers a politically tainted debate over what’s causing it, humans or nature, and whether humanity can actually do anything to offset the changes.
It seems that we are either unwilling or unable to change course in matters related to energy production and the environment. Instead, our species is about to face a sort of hell on earth — in which temperatures and sea levels rise and weather occurrences become more and more extreme — in a state of denial.
If next year the nation experiences a good growing season with milder temperatures, there will be some who will declare global warming a hoax.
They’ll ignore the fact that temperatures are trending upward and they’ll continue in their state of denial — until the earth hits that “tipping point” when it’s too late to do anything about it anyway.
The signs are all around, but we’ve chosen inaction. Maybe humans can reverse climate change, or maybe we can’t, but one thing is growing increasingly clear — we’re not even going to try.
That’s quite a legacy to leave to our children.