Crisis: US summer of 2002 is hottest since 1930s Dust
Reuters News Service
- With nearly half the country reeling from a blistering
drought, this summer is the hottest since the depression-stricken
"Dust Bowl" era of the 1930s, U.S. government weather
experts said last week.
The summer's scorching temperatures have sparked raging
forest fires in the West, wilted crops in the Midwest and
parched pastures in the Plains.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the
average temperature for the contiguous United States from
June through August was 73.9 degrees (23.3 degrees Celsius),
the third hottest summer since records began in 1895.
Summer officially ends on Sept. 22.
only summers warmer were 1936 and 1934, when vast numbers
of farmers were driven from their land by drought.
very extraordinary to have the warmest summer since the
1930s Dust Bowl days," said Douglas LeComte, drought specialist
for NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
the U.S. economy is no longer as dependent on agriculture
as it was in the 1930s, a major drought two years ago
caused damage worth $4 billion and claimed 140 lives nationwide.
That summer in 2000 was only the 12th warmest on record.
the total costs of this year's drought are not presently
known, the drought-diminished water supplies ... and contributed
to an active wildfire season and extremely difficult farming
conditions," NOAA said.
to extreme drought covers more than 45 percent of the
DROUGHT IN 6 STATES
states - North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Arizona
and Nevada - are suffering their worst drought on record,
NOAA said. South Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Delaware
and Wyoming are also near unprecedented dry levels.
prolonged drought has scorched U.S. wheat, corn and soybean
crops, which will be the smallest in years. More than
50 percent of pastures were classified as poor to very
poor in 24 states, leaving ranchers with little to feed
far this year, South Dakota officials have reported over
$1.8 billion in agricultural losses, while Texas claims
$316 million in damages. Costs to fight forest blazes
this year are expected to amount to more than $1.25 billion,
government officials said.
officials predicted the direct loss of this year's drought
would certainly be in the billions of dollars.
will be a significant dollar impact, but nothing similar
to 1988 where the Corn Belt was devastated by drought
- well over $10 billion of direct damage," LeComte said.
last week said this year's drought would continue to linger
for another six months due to the arrival of a weak El
Nino weather anomaly.
Democratic-led U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly
to provide drought relief of $6 billion to farmers and
ranchers despite objections from the Bush administration.
most extensive national drought in the past 100 years
was in 1934 when it hit 80 percent of the country. Studying
tree ring records, NOAA researchers said the severity
of the 1930s drought was likely surpassed only in the
1570s and 1580s.