Drought’s grip tightens as wildfires expand

Aug 20, 2021  | 3 min  | Ep4701

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared July of this year as the hottest month on record across the entire planet. This tops a seven-year streak starting in 2014 with each one a little hotter than the last.

Many federal, state and local officials use this data to point the finger squarely at human-induced climate change despite opinions to the contrary. The global battle against weather extremes has many of those same people sorting out what to do next. In the meantime, the nation is left to deal with the current events brought on by the weather. Producer contact: torpy@iowapbs.org

This week drought conditions expanded in the West and Midwest, but in the Southeast, remnants of Tropical Storm Fred caused flooding and mudslides.

In the Southeast, forecasters watched large amounts of precipitation fall on Georgia and the Carolinas as Tropical Storm Fred dumped five to seven inches of rain and helped spawn more than a dozen tornadoes. Fred weakened to a depression before causing mudslides and power outages in the western parts of North Carolina. 

Aided by above normal temperatures and hot, dry weather, wildfire conditions flourished in the West, creating new fires in Northern California. According to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, extreme and exceptional drought levels continued to expand across Northern California, Oregon, and Washington. Drought conditions helped new wildfires take aim at mountain communities as The Caldor Fire consumed areas of Grizzly Flats.

Mark Ghilarducci, Director, California Governor's Office of Emergency Services: "It's important for all Californians to understand that the severity of how our climate driven conditions are altering the environment and are making these fires move faster and make them more complex and ultimately more dangerous than anything that we faced in the past.”
The town of Greenville was destroyed by California’s largest single blaze, the Dixie fire, which has charred almost 700,000 acres over 5 weeks. Wildfires in 2021 have burned almost 4.4 million acres nationally, a 46 percent increase from the same time last year.

Across the Midwest, pockets of rain helped alleviate drought levels in eastern parts of the Corn Belt. But Iowa, Minnesota, and the Dakotas continued to slide deeper into drought. According to the latest USDA Crop Conditions Report, 62 percent of the nation’s corn crop is rated as good-to-excellent, seven points behind this time last year. Nationally, 81 percent of soybeans have begun setting pods. 57 percent of the 2021 crop is rated good-to-excellent, down 15 points from a year ago.      

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy


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