Drought in China adds pressure to world food prices

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:49 AM GMT on February 23, 2011

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The soil lies cracked and broken in China's Shangdong Province, thirsting for rains that will not come. China's key wheat producing region, lying just south of Beijing, has received just 12 millimeters (1/2 inch) of rain since September, according to the Chinese news service Xinhua. If no rains come during the remainder of February, it could become the worst drought in 200 years. The latest precipitation forecast from the GFS ensemble model predicts the possibility of rains of around 1/2 inch for Shandong Province early next week, but these rains would help only a little. A longer-range 2-week forecast from the operational GFS model shows little or no rain for the region from late next week well into March. Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI) projects that spring in Eastern China has an enhanced probability of being dry, with only a 20% - 25% chance that the region will see above average precipitation, and a 40% - 45% chance of below average precipitation. So the great drought will likely continue, and China's ability to feed itself may be greatly challenged this year.


Figure 1. A dried cornfield in a mountainous area of Jinan, capital of east China's Shandong Province, Jan. 18, 2011. Image credit: Xinhua/Zhu Zheng.


Figure 2. Drought conditions in China's Shandong Province this February have reached the "Severe" category. Image credit: Beijing Climate Center.

Impact on global food supplies and food prices
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the drought in north China seems to be putting pressure on wheat prices, which have been rising rapidly in the past few months. This has helped push global food prices to their highest levels since the FAO Food Price Index was created in 1990 (Figure 3.) China is the world's largest producer of wheat, and if they are forced to import large amounts of food due to continued drought, it could severely impact world food prices. However, the FAO's regional representative for Asia and the Pacific said in an interview with Reuters last month that the situation is not as severe as in 2008, when global food riots erupted. "In general, the supply/demand situation of food grains has become very tight at the moment but enough stocks means there is no cause for alarm," Konuma said. "We still maintain sufficient stocks, which is about 25 percent of annual production. As long as there are sufficient stocks, that means the world has enough food still to feed the people." However, he said that if food stocks continued to decline over the next few years, there would be cause for concern.

The record food global food prices have been partially driven by two other huge weather disasters, the Russian summer heat wave and drought of 2010, and the Australian floods of December - January 2011. Both Russia and Australia are major exporters of grain. Russia issued a ban last summer on grain exports because of their drought, which slashed the wheat harvest by 40% and damaged soils to such an extent that 10% of Russian wheat fields could not be planted this year. The Russian heat wave of 2010 is now estimated by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters to be the deadliest in human history, with 55,736 deaths. The Australian floods caused at least $1.7 billion in agricultural damage, reducing their wheat crop significantly. Fortunately, bumper crops were harvested in non-flooded areas of Australia, and the winter crop harvest in country was up 19% over the previous year's crop, and was the biggest since 2003 - 2004. Australia has been struggling with severe drought in recent years that caused more agricultural damage than the floods did.


Figure 3. The global price of food between 1990 - January 2011, as measured by the U.N.'s FAO Food Price Index. The FAO Food Price Index is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities. It consists of the average of price indices for Cereals, Oils and Fats, Sugar, Dairy, and Meat, weighted by the average export shares of each group. Food prices between 2002 - 2004 are given a benchmark value of "100". Global food prices in January 2011 were the highest since the FAO Index was established in 1990. Image credit: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Drought outlook for Northern Hemisphere summer of 2011
The spike in global food prices this winter raises the concern that a severe drought in a major grain producing region in North America, Europe, or Asia this summer could severely impact grain supplies and food prices. Fortunately, with La Niña conditions over the Eastern Pacific weakening, and possibly abating by summer, the chances for such a drought are lower than they would have been if La Niña were to stay strong into the summer. The latest precipitation forecast from Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society (Figure 4) shows few areas of drought concern for the coming Northern Hemisphere summer. However, our skill at predicting drought months in advance is limited. For example, IRI's February 2010 forecast of precipitation for the summer of 2010 did not highlight Russia as an area of possible concern for drought, and Russia ended up having one of its worst droughts in history. IRI did highlight the Amazon as a region likely to have below-average summer rains, though, and the Amazon ended up having a 100-year drought last summer.


Figure 4. Global precipitation forecast for June, July and August of 2011, made in February 2011. Only a few scattered regions of the globe are predicted to have above-average chances of drought (yellow colors.) These areas include the Northwest U.S., Southern Brazil, and Northwest China. Image credit: International Research Institute for Climate and Society

Commentary
The recent unrest in the Middle East, which has been attributed, in part, to high food prices, gives us a warning of the type of global unrest that might result in future years if the climate continues to warm as expected. A hotter climate means more severe droughts will occur. We can expect an increasing number of unprecedented heat waves and droughts like the 2010 Russian drought in coming decades. This will significantly increase the odds of a world food emergency far worse than the 2007 - 2008 global food crisis. When we also consider the world's expanding population and the possibility that peak oil will make fertilizers and agriculture much more expensive, we have the potential for a perfect storm of events aligning in the near future, with droughts made significantly worse by climate change contributing to events that will cause disruption of the global economy, intense political turmoil, and war.

I will be doing another post on Thursday or Friday.

The New York Times' Andy Revkin in his Dot Earth Blog has a more in-depth look at the food and climate change issue that I recommend.

Jeff Masters

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..."Every time a politician Talk's,,A Lobbyist gets a cheque"...
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128744
Quoting twincomanche:


Right. People that run away instead of letting law work out are dumb.


I don't mind opinions, it's resorting to epithets that aggravates me...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
That conversation is going to HELP Scott Walker! He backed up everything he believed in, whether you agree with him or not. The other guy sounded like a idiot cigar smoking politician that is portrayed on commercials. I dont know why Walker didnt pick up on it? This guy baited him for 20 minutes and only got what he believed in. Is this what are society is coming to? This shouldnt be done to anyone!!!!
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Quoting twincomanche:


You are misquoting him. After being informed that I hadn't researched before shooting off my mouth I went and checked it out. He said and I quote "That would be fun." That is much different from a acceptance.

Can't you folks think of something to talk about besides ripping on everyone and each other?


Unless it's about "dumbocrats", huh...
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Quoting aspectre:
Lessee... A white boy dressed as a 70sTV black pimp walks into an ACORN office asking for tax advice, and enough folks assumed that the office workers were playing it straight when answering him that it became politically expedient to destroy ACORN.

Yet having a state Governor explain his strategy while groveling before the (faked but presumed to be true) voice of a billionaire is just dirty tricks that says nothing about that Governor's moral character.

Certainly explains how ya can believe what you do.

Not to mention that ACORN was cleared of wrongdoing in the infamous pimp incident--a disposition I don't think will be replicated for Walker.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13568
320 twincomanche "The Koch impostor set several traps for Walker. At one point, he referred to the 'Democratic bastards' in the Senate who left Madison to block a vote on Walker's proposal to cut union benefits and rights. At another point, the impostor said the unions were 'probably putting hobos in suits' to protest. At another point, he said, 'Once you crush these bastards I'll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.' "

Lessee... A white boy dressed as a 70sTV parody of a black pimp walks into an ACORN office asking for tax advice, and enough folks assumed that the office workers were playing it straight when answering him that it became politically expedient to destroy ACORN.

Yet having a state Governor explain his strategy while groveling before the (faked but presumed to be true) voice of a billionaire is just dirty tricks that says nothing about that Governor's moral character.

Certainly explains how ya can believe what you do.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Everyone stay safe and wear a smile. I don't think we will have much else to wear in the near future so it may as well be a big smile.

Thank you all for allowing me to join in. The best to you all! Later.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4745
I alreay got my FireCongress.Org sign in my front yard flowerbed and it's lit up with my landscape lights for at night
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting Grothar:


Hey, Canes! Anything interesting going on in your part of the world?


You're not missing anything down here in S FL, except for 80 degree weather and the sun LOL
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Guy gonna get burned at the stake and I hope they drag him out in the streets and not a damn thing the government or police/military can do about it...
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9630
Quoting Skyepony:


The radio show is on youtube.. there is 9045 articles related to this story, including some from Fox. It's one thing to be skeptical & checking sources (which I did). It's more like denial when you do nothing but cry Dis-information.
What's weird is that it is nowhere to be found on Google news front page (at least when I looked): http://news.google.com/nwshp?hl=en&tab=wn

This business could possibly have a much bigger impact in the US than Libya or New Zealand's quake or Lindsay (freaking) Lohan (whoever that is) or anything in the NBA. But google keeps us dumb.

It should be at the top.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting twincomanche:


And then there was this part of the conversation.
"In the phone conversation, Walker said he was investigating whether the unions were paying food and lodging expenses of the 14 Democratic senators believed to be hiding out in Illinois. "If the unions have been paying to put these guys up out of state we think at the minimum there's an ethics code violation if not a felony," he said. "

Not to mention the guy impersonating someone else on the phone call.

I hope the Governor sticks it to all the people sucking up my tax money.

All Walker has on tape is saying he's going on a witch hunt of the unions in hopes he'll find something. On the other hand, the tape has him down cold A) talking--and even groveling--to someone he thought was one of his owners B) about many of the machinations he's using to manipulate the situation in Madison, C) admitting to wasting taxpayer dollars just to break unions, D) admitting his entire charade of saying it's all about balancing the budget is really just a political ploy to hurt the middle class, and E) all the while looking like a typical arrogant, shiftless, corrupt, it's-all-about-me-and-money-and-power politician.

On balance, Walker looks even worse than before.

This is only anecdotal evidence, but from my friends and family in Wisconsin--mostly conservatives--Walker is going to have a lot of 'splaining to do.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13568
Quoting MrMixon:
OK, VABeach and Some1:

This was bugging me so I took another look. Here is a link to the full-size plot. It turns out that we all fail at graph reading 101. Look at the vertical scale (the first tick-mark is 500,000). The bar for 2004 goes about half-way up to the first tick-mark. So yeah, the ~250,000 deaths associated with the 2004 tsunami are properly shown on this graph...

If you still think the graph is "completely bogus" you'll have to come up with another reason.


You are correct, MrMixon. I think my graph reading skills are less suspect than my needing a new eye examination. These glasses may have served me longer than they should have. What the heck. I'll just use larger fonts and lower screen resolution. I wonder if I can still use 640x480?

Grothar, do you still have that Tandy TSR 80? My Commodore VIC20 bit the dust. Wait a minute. It's fine. It is just covered in dust.


Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4745
SQUAWK "Yup. But then, how many have ever seen Jay Leno's man in the street interviews? That has got to tell you something."

The question is, how many folks hadda be filmed to get those handfuls who gave stupid answers? It ain't as if Leno's gonna put you on air for giving correct answers.

And of those, how many deliberately gave answers that they knew to be stupid just to get on-air? In polls, celebrity is rated as #1; above religion, family, wealth, nation, good health, good reputation, etc...
Hardly a surprise considering the commercial and social value of "being famous for being (in)famous" ala ParisHilton et al. Being wealthy in-and-of-itself ain't gonna getcha an invite anywhere.
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OK, VABeach and Some1:

This was bugging me so I took another look. Here is a link to the full-size plot. It turns out that we all fail at graph reading 101. Look at the vertical scale (the first tick-mark is 500,000). The bar for 2004 goes about half-way up to the first tick-mark. So yeah, the ~250,000 deaths associated with the 2004 tsunami are properly shown on this graph...

If you still think the graph is "completely bogus" you'll have to come up with another reason.




Quoting MrMixon:
It's definitely curious that the 2004 bar doesn't seem to reflect the well-known disaster in the Indian Ocean. But, I didn't create the data and I really gotta finish up some things before I leave work so I don't have time to dig into it right now. I appreciate you pointing out a potential flaw in the data but to dismiss it as "completely bogus" because the bar for 2004 looks wrong strikes me as rather knee-jerk and lazy.

Before you completely dismiss the graph, I recommend checking the link I provide in 271 to see if you can figure out why the tsunami data is missing. I might look into it myself later, but I just can't do it at the moment.




Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting Skyepony:


The radio show is on youtube.. there is 9045 articles related to this story. It's one thing to be skeptical & checking sources (which I did). It's more like denial when you do nothing but cry Dis-information.


Thanks for the link Skye. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is carrying the article (link). I get the feeling from talking to friends and family that we're starting to lose confidence in our governor. This is something that we expect from Blagojevich in IL.
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 309
310. Skyepony (Mod)


The radio show is on youtube.. there is 9045 articles related to this story, including some from Fox. It's one thing to be skeptical & checking sources (which I did). It's more like denial when you do nothing but cry Dis-information.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Quoting caneswatch:


It's sad ain't it? Some don't give a you-know-what about what's going on, and the others care for what's happening in the world around us.


Hey, Canes! Anything interesting going on in your part of the world?
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308. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting twincomanche:


I know skeptics aren't always welcome on here, however let me say I am just a bit skeptical of a post from someone calling himself 'Jerky Boys' on a blog called Grist. That's somewhat more off the wall than Fox or one of the other networks or a real newspaper.


The radio show is on youtube.. there is 9045 articles related to this story. It's one thing to be skeptical & checking sources (which I did). It's more like denial when you do nothing but cry Dis-information.
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Interesting to see that political unrest is the order of the day in so many places....

Any weather connection? Well, here in Nassau we had absolutely cloud-free skies this morning as a large group of protestors gathered in front of the Houses of Parliament this morning to decry the government's proposed sale of the government-operated telecommunications company to British-owned Cable and Wireless. Great day for that kind of thing....
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It's definitely curious that the 2004 bar doesn't seem to reflect the well-known disaster in the Indian Ocean. But, I didn't create the data and I really gotta finish up some things before I leave work so I don't have time to dig into it right now. I appreciate you pointing out a potential flaw in the data but to dismiss it as "completely bogus" because the bar for 2004 looks wrong strikes me as rather knee-jerk and lazy.

Before you completely dismiss the graph, I recommend checking the link I provide in 271 to see if you can figure out why the tsunami data is missing. I might look into it myself later, but I just can't do it at the moment.




Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Thats completely bogus... over 250,000 people died in one disaster in 2004, that graph can't be right at all...
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
303. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting twincomanche:


Dis-information.


Really? His office released this statement..

"The Governor takes many calls everyday. Throughout this call the Governor maintained his appreciation for and commitment to civil discourse. He continued to say that the budget repair bill is about the budget. The phone call shows that the Governor says the same thing in private as he does in public and the lengths that others will go to disrupt the civil debate Wisconsin is having."

Would you believe it if Fox news said...A prank caller pretending to be billionaire conservative businessman David Koch was able to have a lengthy conversation with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker about his strategy to cripple public employee unions, the governor's office confirmed Wednesday..cause they did.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Thats completely bogus... over 250,000 people died in one disaster in 2004, that graph can't be right at all...

You forgot about the 2004 tsunami. Easily that many people.

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4745
Quoting SQUAWK:


Kinda my point. Not a lot of people look at anything other than their little piece of the world and nothing beyond. All you have to do is lurk in some blogs - other than this one - and you can see it. Most do not have a clue, nor do they want one.


It's sad ain't it? Some don't give a you-know-what about what's going on, and the others care for what's happening in the world around us.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Afternoon everybody.

Quoting Neapolitan:
The NHC has released its 2010 storm tracking map with all the official data (though the Tomas TCR hasn't yet been released):

Click for larger image:

Appropriate tropical weather-related image.
Thanks for the image, Nea. Looking at this map, 2010 was actually fairly typical of La Nina seasons in terms of landfalls... mostly across Central America.

I don't think we can expect to see that kind of concentration of tracks in a particular area with the neutral season... steering would at least potentially allow for strikes to occur anywhere in the W ATL, and the US has the longest potential coast...
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Quoting Grothar:
One pattern of which I have become aware, is the insidious remarks which appear repeatedly and seem ubiquitous. This may be due to the fact that one does not have the sequacious ability to formulate a more cognizant argument, or lacks, therefore, the desire to contribute a meaningful dialogue. If this were the case, it would be just a nefarious attempt at attention. Hence, we should negate any response to the former and withhold any credence to the latter. There, now go have fun with this.
I agree completely....I think????:)
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Quoting caneswatch:


I have. It tells me not many people out there watch the news and what's going on, and even who got elected into offices.


Kinda my point. Not a lot of people look at anything other than their little piece of the world and nothing beyond. All you have to do is lurk in some blogs - other than this one - and you can see it. Most do not have a clue, nor do they want one.
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Quoting JohnTucker:
There has never been a better time to plant a garden.
+ 1000
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4745
Quoting SQUAWK:


Yup. But then, how many have ever seen Jay Leno's man in the street interviews? That has got to tell you something.


I have. It tells me not many people out there watch the news and what's going on, and even who got elected into offices, and it also shows not much of us are educated as well.
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Quoting RitaEvac:
245 wrong, it's the stupid media that is everywhere. Wake up. and the fact there are cameras just about every damn corner on the globe somewhere.


Perhaps, however I weigh in as I see it. Not really certain how to take the wake up side of the comment.
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.