The wrath of 2007: America's great drought

America is facing its worst summer drought since the Dust Bowl years of the Great Depression. Or perhaps worse still.

From the mountains and desert of the West, now into an eighth consecutive dry year, to the wheat farms of Alabama, where crops are failing because of rainfall levels 12 inches lower than usual, to the vast soupy expanse of Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida, which has become so dry it actually caught fire a couple of weeks ago, a continent is crying out for water.

In the south-east, usually a lush, humid region, it is the driest few months since records began in 1895. California and Nevada, where burgeoning population centres co-exist with an often harsh, barren landscape, have seen less rain over the past year than at any time since 1924. The Sierra Nevada range, which straddles the two states, received only 27 per cent of its usual snowfall in winter, with immediate knock-on effects on water supplies for the populations of Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

The human impact, for the moment, has been limited, certainly nothing compared to the great westward migration of Okies in the 1930 – the desperate march described by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath.

Big farmers are now well protected by government subsidies and emergency funds, and small farmers, some of whom are indeed struggling, have been slowly moving off the land for decades anyway. The most common inconvenience, for the moment, are restrictions on hosepipes and garden sprinklers in eastern cities.

But the long-term implications are escaping nobody. Climatologists see a growing volatility in the south-east’s weather – today’s drought coming close on the heels of devastating hurricanes two to three years ago.

Read it all.


Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Climate Change, Weather, Energy, Natural Resources

17 comments on “The wrath of 2007: America's great drought

  1. Words Matter says:

    Is this true? Texas has experienced the breaking of a drought that has run several years. Our lakes are full or near-full for the first time in awhile. But I haven’t been keeping up with the other parts of the country.

  2. sandlapper says:

    The Old Testament has many examples of God using weather to rebuke people for rebellion against His authority. Could this be happening now? It could be argued that we are in rebellion over sthe issue of respect for life, by both abortion and elective war. On the other hand, it is notoriously hard to understand such judgements in the short term. Better to simply note that God could be judging us through the weather, and examine ourselves to see if we might amend our ways for the better.

  3. john scholasticus says:

    This is frightening. We all need to do our bit. This includes all those busy-body Anglican bishops who fly round the globe spreading discord.

  4. Kevin Maney+ says:

    Besides being very much off topic, I see you are doing your part to lessen discord by throwing more bombs, John. Very irenic.

  5. David Fischler says:

    Re #3
    You mean like KJS?

  6. Cousin Vinnie says:

    This is Bravo Sierra. Obviously written by someone who doesn’t actually live in the locations he writes about.

  7. talithajd says:

    Alabama has had a miserable Spring. Absolutely no rain to speak of for weeks. Finally, last week we had some much needed relief. People were actually calling each other: “did y’all get rain? we did!” Don’t know if its judgment, but it’ll feel like judgment to the farmers.

  8. libraryjim says:

    notice the article said “Worst drought SINCE the Dust Bowl”.
    that is the secret word — all nature goes in cycles.

  9. john scholasticus says:


    I said, we all. But I’m certainly including those mentioned. I also include academics.

  10. Africanised Anglican says:

    ##1, 6:

    Quite true west of Texas. Things are spectactularly dry here, and some of the climatologically-inclined archaeologists are drawing parallels to a massive drought about 500-600 years ago that may have been the cause of massive social upheavals and, arguably, the disappearance of some small civilisations in New Mexico and Arizona.

  11. DonGander says:

    Yep, it’s dry. Been there before.

    The article and its fearmongering is the reason I don’t watch TV news anymore. And except for referrals, I don’t read news outlets that spectacularize everything.


  12. DonGander says:

    “emerging consensus”

    “broad consensus”

    “broad emerging consensus”

    There is no such thing.


  13. libraryjim says:

    If it’s consensus, it’s not science””
    — Michael Crichton.

  14. eric says:

    “a continent is crying out for water”
    Hmmm…. Canada as a whole has had higher than normal precipitation for the last 22 years according to official sources. Although some areas of the west experienced severe drought, in the last 5 years particularly this pattern has been broken.
    I live in a rural area and my heart goes out to those affected by drought in the US, however any article that claims the entire continent is affected by drought is conveniently forgetting about a good chunk of the land mass.

  15. Tom Roberts says:

    Meanwhile, “mounting shark attacks” ledes moulder, unused, in the backup files.

  16. libraryjim says:

    Unfortunately, those perspectives cannot be discussed outside of a politically high-stakes debate engaged by people who are not involved in the day-to-day workings of the science itself (i.e., Crichton), or worse by people who don’t know anything about how science works at all.

    Which is to say, if you don’t agree with us, you are not qualified as ‘proper scientists’ and we can ignore you.

    Consensus in Gorbal warming is: “we have a group of scientists who think alike, and we are getting great publicity for funding, so we are going to a) silence the opposition by dissing their reputations and keeping their papers out of peer-reviewed journals {note: there is a lot of testimony to this on the web} and b) then say, see? everyone who counts agrees with us, so we must be right.”

    Ok, if that’s what you want to think. Fine. But I’m going to go with the very qualified scientists who say, “we disagree and here’s why”.


    “it is becoming the consensus among climate modelers that the SW (and SE) US instead of getting more rain under anthropogenic climate change will get less rain.”

    Unfortunately, much computer modelling is an exercise in futility due in part to the extreme sensitivity of realistic models to the initial conditions or to computational intractability. Mathematics on the other hand allows claims to be proven which are true in any system in which the axioms are true. See for example where it is shown (assuming the truth of the axioms of classical thermodynamics) that the same set of data can be rigorously compatible with both global warming and cooling.