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Severe Texas drought felt in the global economy

Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A map created by University College London shows instances of drought around the world, including in East Africa, Canada, France and Britain. The biggest, most worrisome dry area, however, is in Texas, which has just experienced the driest year in the state's history.

Currently, 70 percent of Texas is going through "exceptional drought" -- the most severe type. Fifty-five percent of Oklahoma and parts of Louisiana, New Mexico and Kansas have also been affected. The drought has fed wildfires, created a huge dust storm and brought general hardship for farmers in the region. This has had particularly large impacts on the food and agriculture sectors, which have been felt throughout the United States and across the globe.

Texas produces about 50 percent of U.S. cotton; however, yields have dropped by around 60 percent on Texas' high plains, where the bulk of the crop grows. The drop in production has caused buyers to turn to Brazil and Australia for their cotton purchases, said Darren Hudson, director of the Cotton Economics Research Institute of Texas Tech University. Some buyers may never return.

Peanut, corn and wheat crops are also suffering. As grass dries out, the cattle industry is taking a hit, as well. With feed and water in short supply, a high number of cattle are being sent to the slaughterhouse early, reducing future supply. The drought could then push beef prices higher in coming years than they already are, said Kevin Good, senior market analyst with CattleFax.

In August, the Texas Agrilife Extension Service calculated that Texas' agriculture sector had taken a $5.2 billion hit. Since then, the losses have only increased. The situation could also get worse as global warming persists. This year's drought, fueled by the La NiƱa phenomenon, was severely worsened by record-high temperatures.

"While drought will always be a part of the natural climate variability of the Southern Plains, the impacts of drought in a warming world are likely to become even more pronounced," said David Brown, an official in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who is based in Fort Worth, Texas (Kate Galbraith, New York Times, Oct. 30). -- JP

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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Reprinted from climatewire-10-31_11-11 with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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