Year of high temps and record drought portends climate future for once fertile croplandsDramatic video footage and eye witness accounts from Oklahoma on Thursday tell the story of a scene right out of the Depression-era 'Dust Bowl days' as a massive wind-swept cloud of 'reddish-brown' dirt made visibility impossible on a stretch of Interstate-35 between Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo.
The mid-western states have experienced some of the highest temperatures on record this year and a severe drought has devastated corn crops and turned once thriving fields to brown. Scientists make direct connections between these trends and the growing impact of climate change fueled by human-caused global warming.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Jodi Palmer, a dispatcher with the Kay County Sheriff’s Office, told the Associated Press. “In this area alone, the dirt is blowing because we’ve been in a drought. I think from the drought everything’s so dry and the wind is high.”
“You have the perfect combination of extended drought in that area ... and we have the extremely strong winds,” said Gary McManus, the Oklahoma associate state climatologist, also speaking with AP.
“Also, the timing is bad because a lot of those farm fields are bare. The soil is so dry, it’s like powder. Basically what you have is a whole bunch of topsoil waiting for the wind to blow it away. It’s no different from the 1930s than it is now.”
Experts have warned for years about the impact of top soil erosion caused by an over-reliance on industrial farming practices, including heavy use of chemical fertilizers.
As science journalist April Kelsey, writing for Suite 101, explains: