How Climate Extremes Are Impacting Agricultural Growers

 

On top of everything else that’s happened so far this year, the country as a whole is experiencing extreme weather circumstances that are nearly unprecedented. So, how does this impact growers and the agricultural industry at large?

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most prevalent circumstances affecting growers across the country.

Wildfires and Air Quality Index

Historic wildfires are ravaging the West Coast, leaving many cities dealing with an Air Quality Index (AQI) well above 150, which is when air is classified as unhealthy. This means that even growers not in the direct line of threat from the fires are still at risk of missing out on crucial harvesting time, due to the dangers of breathing in this toxic air.

A recent article from Growing Produce outlines some of the most important things you can do to protect your farm and your field workers, including a review of California regulations to keep in mind. The article also includes important safety tips for growers working through these conditions, such as wearing natural fibers instead of synthetics and having clear escape routes identified in case an evacuation is needed.

Below Average Rainfall

Another concern in the western part of the country is lower than average rates of precipitation. Recently the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a map showing regional precipitation ranks since 1895.

While some parts of the country are averaging near-average rates of precipitation, the same cannot be said for other areas. California and Nevada are much below average, while Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico are all reporting their record driest periods ever.

Coupled with this lack of rainfall are above average temperatures throughout most of the country. According to the NOAA’s recent climate report, June through August “ranked 4th hottest and in the driest one-third of all summers in the historical record.”

This weather instability makes it incredibly difficult for agricultural growers to thrive in an already complicated year.

Increased Hurricane Activity

The Southeast, on the other hand, is showing above-average levels of rainfall. This is likely due to the increased hurricane activity we’re seeing in the Atlantic. As we talked about in July, the 2020 hurricane season has been a tumultuous one.

In August, the Gulf Coast endured the Category 4 Hurricane Laura, which tied an 1856 Louisiana hurricane for the strongest land-falling winds in the state. While the Western part of the country could desperately use extra rainfall, the Southeast is feeling the opposite impact, hoping for a reprieve from hurricane activity during the remainder of the season.

The Impact of Climate Change

All of these extreme weather events cannot be chalked up to mere coincidence. Scientists believe that climate change is the key factor behind the varying extremes felt across the country.

And, many suggest that it’s tied to one key factor. A CBS News report says, “…many scientists believe that there is more at play contributing to this extreme weather than simply the direct effects of warming and drying. One of these mechanisms is the indirect impacts of global warming on the most influential weather-maker on day-to-day conditions: the jet stream.”

The movement of the jet stream affects the intensity of storm systems and the temperature across regions. So, perhaps a decrease in changes to the jet stream can help alleviate the climate issues that affecting growers, and in turn, consumers.

 

We’ll continue to keep you updated on changes in these ongoing weather events and how they’re expected to impact the agricultural industry.