Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Food and weather

One of the reasons farmers tend to be more religious than most is because no matter how well they plan or how hard they work, they are still at the mercy of the weather (gods).  Those who use irrigation are insulated somewhat from drought but even they are subjected to all the other natural catastrophes that can fall from the sky.  Here in Minnesota irrigation is very rare.  Farmers around here are utterly exposed to the forces of nature.  Crops can be destroyed by wind, hail, floods, and early frosts. Etc.!

And yes, the weather has gotten even harsher in the last 20 years.  Because the crazy weather is so obvious, climate change deniers around here come in only two flavors--morons and drooling morons.
Great Floods Aren't a Fluke -- They're a Taste of a Changing Climate
Posted: 05/10/11 12:33 PM ET
Bill McKibben
Author of a dozen books, including 'The End of Nature' and 'Deep Economy'
Last week, at a place called Bird's Point, just below the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers was busy mining a huge levee with explosives. The work was made dangerous by outbreaks of lightning, but eventually the charges were in place and corps Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh gave the order: A 2-mile-wide hole was blasted in the earthen levee, and a wall of water greater than the flow over Niagara Falls inundated 130,000 acres of prime Missouri farmland.
The corps breached the levee to ease pressure on other floodwalls; if it hadn't, the town of Cairo, Ill., might well have been inundated. But it's not as if the problem has been solved. That water will reenter the Mississippi a little farther downstream as it surges toward the sea. "We're just at the beginning of the beginning," Walsh said. Col. Vernie Reichling Jr. of the Memphis District of the corps said: "We'll have to fight this river all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. I don't see it letting up."
Of course, what the corps is really fighting is a river swelled not just by the power of nature but by the power of man. As climatologists have warned for years, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold. That means record snowfalls like the ones we saw this winter across the upper Midwest, and record rainfalls like the ones that have washed across much of the region this spring. And it also means more evaporation -- and record drought -- in places like parched Texas.
In Pakistan, Australia and now the center of the North American continent, we're getting a powerful taste of what global warming feels like in its early stages. (And if for some reason you've decided not to believe scientists, then ask the people we pay to analyze risk in our society: In September, one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world, Munich Re, said that "the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.") more
And then there is that other threat to the global food supply--dependence on petroleum.  The following is must-read.
Anton Smedshaug's Definitive Guide To The Oil-Driven Food Crisis
Gus Lubin | May 10, 2011, 12:07 PM 
One of the best presentations at last week's peak oil conference in Chicago was given by Norwegian agronomist Anton Smedshaug.
Smedshaug showed how the Malthusian food crisis of the nineteenth century was averted by increased crop yields and a transportation revolution.
As fuel prices increase, however, food supply will be limited to what's local. Moreover, governments will be forced to commit land to biofuel production, food production will diminished. more
And this spring is off to an ugly start.
More Bad News For Food Prices, As US Crop Situation Deteriorates
Gregory White | May 10, 2011
This year's crop is way behind schedule, and not looking good compared to recent seasons, according to data released by the USDA.
The spring wheat schedule is way behind schedule, with only 22% of the crop being planted. That's behind the five year average of 61%, according to USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey.
The situation in corn is bad too.
From UBS:
Plantings of the 2011 corn crop, at 40%, are off to a start that is behind last year’s crop (80%), as well as the average pace over the last five years (59%). Additionally, 7% of the corn crop is now emerged, behind the 36% emerged at this time last year and the five year average pace of 21% emerged.
Weather conditions across the U.S., including flooding in the south, are the likely drivers behind this year's weak crop. And well commodity prices fell sharply last week, more weak crop data is likely to push up prices. more

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