’s free newsletters."data-newsletterpromo-image="https://static.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/458BF87F-514B-44EE-B87F5D531772CF83_source.png"data-newsletterpromo-button-text="Sign Up"data-newsletterpromo-button-link="https:// origincode=2018_sciam_Article Promo_Newsletter Sign Up"name="article Body" itemprop="article Body" Indeed we are embroiled in what many consider the worst drought in the U. since the “Dust Bowl” days of the 1930s that rendered some 50 million acres of farmland barely usable.
Back then, drought conditions combined with poor soil management practices to force some 2.5 million Americans away from the Great Plains, only wreaking further havoc on an already devastated Great Depression economy.
Likewise, the cost of piping drinking water to our homes’ faucets is on the rise with freshwater reserves becoming a hotter and hotter commodity.
And our tax dollars pay for emergency response missions in the case of wildfires and other warming-related weather disasters.
The lack of native prairie grasses or cover crops to keep the soil in place meant large swaths of formerly productive agricultural land turned to dust and blew away in so-called “black rollers.” While we have learned a lot about maintaining soil quality since, drought conditions today are nevertheless taking a heavy toll on agricultural productivity, fresh water supplies and the economy—especially as the effects of global warming start to kick in more seriously.
The current drought started in 2012, the hottest year on record in the U. with several weeks in a row of 100-plus degree days in various regions.
The result was drought conditions for two-thirds of the country.
Economists estimate that the dry spell cost Americans some billion in agricultural losses—staple crops including soy, corn and wheat have all been devastated—as well as forest fire destruction and other financial casualties.
Gradually, the land was laid bare, and significant environmental damage began to occur.
Among the natural elements, the strong winds of the region were particularly devastating.