Are we on the edge of a Dust Bowl?
By KRISS NELSON
In addition to his amusing banter, Elwynn Taylor, Iowa State University climatologist emeritus, also presented his views on where our weather is potentially headed in the next few years and the history that supports his predictions during the Farm News Ag Show last Thursday.
Taylor often speaks about the 89 year cycle of weather that is prevalent in our part of the world.
“If you look at the weather on a particularly good year, or a particularly bad year, 89 years before that, probably the same thing happened,” he said.
Throughout the past 89 years, there have been 25 year cycles with volatile weather followed by 15 year cycles of continuous favorable weather.
“This has been this way for 400 years,” he said. “We know that from the oak trees that are still around. That is the way our weather pattern goes.”
Why is this important?
“Because, right now, we are in one of those patterns and we will be getting out of it after 2025 and it hits right , we are going to have a Dust Bowl – these things are 89 years apart. The Dust Bowl was in 1936. Add 89 to that. It’s 2025. If it is going to be a Dust Bowl in this century, it’s hitting us in 2025 and we are right at the four year build up to that now,” he said. “Look back and see what the build up was in the records back in the ’30s. That’s what we’re expecting for weather volatility at this time.”
The current time period, Taylor predicts, is likely to have very volatile or extreme weather, which will perhaps include one of the most adverse crop years of the century.
Is our climate changing?
Taylor said he is not one to describe our climate as changing, but rather that the climate is drifting.
Some of the climate drifting we have been experiencing in Iowa, Taylor said, over the past 14 years shows we have been warmer than the previous 40 years.
In addition to warmer weather, we are also wetter. In the previous 14 years, we have been wetter than the previous 30, according to Taylor.
“These are those kinds of things we watch – climate drifting. I don’t like to say changing because people start thinking about global warming and that kind of thing,” he said.
This pattern is showing that in the next 30 years, we don’t necessarily expect any big temperature changes, but that we are getting wetter.
“We will see if that is right, or if it isn’t,” he said. “But, that is the best information that we have for right now for our climate that may be drifting.”
Will floods always be in the Midwest?
As far as flooding in the same aspect as what happened this year, it is unclear what the chances are for that happening again in 2020.
“We kind of know the risks,” he said. “We have rivers on each side of us and they flood. And they are fairly consistent about doing that. They are just a little bit hard to get the timing on sometimes.”
The Corn Belt
The center of the Corn Belt, Taylor explained, is where half of the corn is grown to the north, half to the south, half to the east and half to the west.
This particular spot has seen a dramatic move in the last 70 years.
“In 1959, it (the center of the Corn Belt) was in Springfield, Illinois,” he said. “In 1964 it was up to Peoria. And as of 2012, it is starting to get pretty close to here (Fort Dodge) for the center of the Corn Belt.”
Taylor said when he looks at current maps of the Midwest, he is seeing the Corn Belt moving halfway up into Minnesota and is practically obsolete in Ohio these days.
“The Corn Belt is expanding north and west,” he said. “We’re not even considering Ohio as part of the Corn Belt. We looked at it and over the last couple years, the production, even though they are trying, is not doing as well there as it is when you get to Indiana and over into eastern South Dakota. The Corn Belt has been drifting.”
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