Summer 2012 = Climate Change Proof?
Debate heats up over whether it's a fluke or sign of things to come
As I write this post at 8 in the morning in Southern Wisconsin, the mercury has already hit 85 degrees. Nearly all of Indiana, Iowa and Illinois along with the lower halves of Wisconsin and Michigan are under heat advisories and at least ¾ of the country has a hazardous weather outlook, according to the National Weather Service.
By now, many Midwesterners have grown tired of the chatter about the drought and the heat wave. We’ve almost become accustomed to the conditions, as you might imagine we would like the folks living in Arizona or Florida have. But we all know relief will come eventually — if only in the form of fall — and surely next summer will be cooler. But what if this outrageous weather pattern becomes the rule and not the exception?
If this indeed is climate change rearing its ugly head, more summers like this are in store.
As Seth Borenstein wrote for the Huff Post, “Climate scientists suggest that if you want a glimpse of some of the worst of global warming, take a look at U.S. weather in recent weeks.
Horrendous wildfires. Oppressive heat waves. Devastating droughts. Flooding from giant deluges. And a powerful freak wind storm called a derecho.
These are the kinds of extremes experts have predicted will come with climate change, although it's far too early to say that is the cause. Nor will they say global warming is the reason 3,215 daily high temperature records were set in the month of June.”
The millions of residents on the East coast who had to endure 100-degree-weather without power or air conditioning represent only the immediate consequences of unpredictable bad weather. Looking long-term, the drought and disasters will be responsible for driving down yields for nearly all crops in the United States this year.
Although 2012 saw the most acres of corn planted since the 1930s, the yield is likely to be even lower than current official government forecasts. In June, the USDA projected a record 166 bushels of corn/acre, but now the projection is down to 146 bushels/acre. Considering the already tight stocks for most commodities, lower than expected yields will lead to higher prices/bushel and will wreak havoc on the futures market.
Economy 101 lessons for the day: High commodity prices will eventually translate to higher ingredient prices, higher animal feed prices, and higher food prices, not to mention fuel prices, which can be effected by corn prices due to ethanol mandates. This surely isn’t a scenario anyone wants to see year after year.
Fortunately, there’s hope that 2012’s disasters aren’t indicative of long-term climate change, and this is merely a cyclical pattern. Weather.com’s Nick Wiltgen reports that we’ve seen summers like this before.
For as hot as it is, 2012 isn’t the hottest or even second hottest on record. The years 1934, 1936, 1987 and 1988 all fared worse than this summer in the April to June timeframe, according to the National Climate Data Center.
The article also notes the 2012 summer bears “striking similarities in regional patterns of heat and dryness compared to the droughts of the 1950s … Some indicators ‘suggest that the 2012 drought is similar to the 1950s drought in extent, pattern, and intensity, although not in duration.’”
Only time will tell if 2013 and beyond will bring similar climate our way. Feed & Grain has been talking about the weather all year. Stay tuned for more of our insights on crucial weather events as they impact our industry, the economy and the rest of the world.