US Drought Threatens Mississippi River

B. McPherson

A small increase in atmospheric temperature leads to big weather changes.
The continuing drought in the US has the Mississippi River drying up. The Army Corps of Engineers is busy dredging the river in an attempt to keep the commercial traffic going. They are removing rocks from the river bed in an attempt to gain two feet of clearance for freight barges. If they are successful, traffic may continue this month but if rain is not forthcoming, February could see a shut down of fully loaded barge traffic that can now navigate the river as far as Illinois.

The engineers have already released water from a lake to bolster the river levels. While the Missouri River is a tributary and a source of water, it too is facing low levels. Various laws protect the Missouri Basin from “pirating” water from there.

The drought which devastated much of the American mid-west agriculture last summer and the summer before looks as if it will continue. Much of the winter wheat grown as late fodder for cattle has failed due to lack of rain. Snow has fallen in the area, but not enough to make up for the bone dry condition of the soil.
The continuing drought will have impact on those across the world as corn and soybean crops were greatly reduced last summer. While both crops are used in processed food for humans, much of the harvest goes for animal feed and in the case of corn, to produce ethanol. Prices for many foods have been inching up as the increased price of these commodities makes its way through the supply pipeline.

Those agencies which buy food to help prevent famine are finding increasing difficulty in being able to purchase sufficient supplies.

Protein sources are expected to increase dramatically in the next few months as cattle, pigs and chickens feed on the more expensive grains. Soy, also a good source of protein has had major crop failures in both the US and Brazil.

Small changes in global temperatures can lead to big changes in the weather. Last year, the US recorded its hottest year since records were kept – over 100 years. 

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