With the winter offering little relief from the devastating, ongoing drought that has plagued much of the country, Great Plains farmers are worrying that the ongoing weather crisis, combined with the gradual degradation of the environment, may lead to conditions similar to the 1930s Dust Bowl.
At the height of the Great Depression, arid conditions and high winds, combined with an overall lack of concern for environmental conservation, led to massive environmental damage as exposed topsoil blew away in the wind, creating massive dust storms that blocked out the sun.
While most farmers don’t expect the massive environmental disaster of the 30s to repeat itself, the ongoing drought has led to major dust storms that has led many farmers to worry that dust storms and droughts may become a common part of life in the Great Plains. Recent satellite images from earlier this month, for example, showed a 150-mile dust storm stretching across parts of Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico.
The reason for the dust storm is a combination of climate change as well as the draining of major aquifers in the Great Plains. Major irrigation projects across the Plains have drained the Ogallala aquifer, leading to drier topsoil which, when combined with the ongoing drought, has led to dust storms.
Environmental groups are already pushing for increased conservation programs to protect the increasingly fragile ecosystem.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer