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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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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Quoting Minnemike:
and what fine artists have we seen as #1 before... or what bank was #1... hmm, what store is #1 or what restaurant is #1?

the top slot does not indicate quality. there is much reason for picking on Fox news... not that there isn't plenty of reason to pick on some other networks too, but that doesn't change the fact that Fox has some seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content. they are #1 just like Walmart, McDonalds, or whoever's topping the pop charts today... thankfully I wouldn't know, but assume it's as crappy as usual.

we the people have spoken

I have no problem with the news segments of Fox News. I do have a great deal of mistrust of their "news" commentators. Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and the others. The news on Fox is trustworthy. The commentators of the news? Not so much.
 I also have a problem with their, "Fair and balanced" claim to fame when their line up of broadcast includes:

Glenn Beck
Sean Hannity
Bill O'Rielly
Michael Berry
Rush Limbaugh
Mark Levine
Tony Snow (formerly)

Forgive me, but I do not see the "balance" in their statement. Does Glenn Beck somehow offset Rush and Hannity?

Well, enough of that, for me.

I lurk here quite often. I do so because there are many knowledgeable people here that allows me to expand my knowledge base. I see all sides of the debates and many of the scenarios that may play out with the weather. I see this little group of bloggers as an extended family. We get into our little one-ups and put downs, sarcasm and praises. When it is all said and done, I have yet failed to see all offer their support for any of those  that may be going through problems. Weather related, illness or otherwise we each will offer our support.. That's family, my friends. While we can not chose our paternal families, we all choose to be here and become somewhat of a dysfunctional and yet very functional extended family. My praise to each of you. Thank you for allowing me in, even if I am often the dysfunctional member of the family. . ... One question remains for me now. Do I have to be Grothar's OLDER brother? ;-)

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Quoting Skyepony:
Prank call proves billionaire David Koch owns Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP

Yes, that was great. At first you're expecting a few laughs, but the longer it goes on, the more Walker reveals himself to be dishonest and manipulative, if not borderline criminal. very, very sad--but not really much of a shock, as it was already known that the Koch's owned Walker lock, stock, and barrel.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
Quoting twincomanche:


It tells me Leno is looking for really silly people to do some shtick. That what it tells me. If you think that's a typical American you are suffering from a serious case of elitism.


Elitism??????? That is really funny. If you deal with the general public every day, you realize that there are a lot of stupid people out there.
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
Quoting MrMixon:
Here's a plot of the raw data. I do believe this data includes the storms to which you're referring, but I haven't dug into the site enough to know how they got from this graph to the one I posted before. Nevertheless, the spikes in 1970, 1991, and 2008 are all visible in this data.







Thats completely bogus... over 250,000 people died in one disaster in 2004, that graph can't be right at all...
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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.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
Here's a plot of the raw data. I do believe this data includes the storms to which you're referring, but I haven't dug into the site enough to know how they got from this graph to the one I posted before. Nevertheless, the spikes in 1970, 1991, and 2008 are all visible in this data.





Quoting BDAwx:


What type of natural disaster does that graph include? Or how is it smoothed/averaged out because it doesn't show spike in 1970, 1991, or 2008 in each case over 100,000 people died as a result of Indian Ocean Cyclones.
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
And thats the way it is..

Feb 23,2011,

Wait,,were just handed this Breaking News bulletin from the teletype,,"Glenn Beck has lost his eraser and 3 more Sponsor's"


And thats the news,(Best Chevy Chase imt)
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128641
Quoting MrMixon:
Just to clarify, "the people" SQUAWK is referring to are the people who watch cable news and participate in Nielson ratings surveys. "The people" thusly referenced may or may not be representative of the wider population of the USA.




Yup. But then, how many have ever seen Jay Leno's man in the street interviews? That has got to tell you something.
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
Quoting Neapolitan:

But it's not a matter of perspective; through testing of what information regular viewers of various TV networks know and don't know, researchers have been able to determine that Fox News viewers are, indeed, the least informed/misinformed of all. See post #269.


You may want to check the source of the report. It is at least a little suspect.
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
Just to clarify, "the people" SQUAWK is referring to are the people who watch cable news and participate in Nielson ratings surveys. "The people" thusly referenced may or may not be representative of the wider population of the USA.


Quoting SQUAWK:


Not quite. The people have made it #1. Not you. "Seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content" is a matter of perspective.
To each his own.
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
278. BDAwx
Quoting MrMixon:
It's certainly plausible that the perceived increase in the number of disasters is due to the fact that disasters are now more widely covered by news media than they were in the past. It's also likely that the effects of these disasters are more dramatic due to our growing population.

That said, it's also possible that there are a greater number of disasters now than there were in the recent past. The only way to know for sure is to look at the numbers.

Here are a couple of links to analyses of disaster trends:

Link 1

Link 2


Look for yourself and decide what you think the trends mean. One thing that I find particularly interesting is that as the number of reported disasters has dramatically increased, the number of reported deaths from disasters has dropped.



Considering the rapid population growth that has occurred during the period analyzed, this hints at our improved ability to protect ourselves against these disasters... maybe a ray of hope for an otherwise gloomy blog.



As a side note: RitaEvac, your response suggests that all media is bad. Do you not see the benefit of a free and open news media? Sure, there are plenty of reporters with agendas... but I'd much rather sift through a dozen agenda-biased articles on a topic than have a single state-sponsored story or no story at all. News media isn't inherently evil... when it is truly free (as in freedom), the media is exactly as humans are: left and right, informed and not-so-informed, biased and unbiased, benevolent and evil. Whether or not you think that is a good thing is a matter of perspective, I suppose. But, I kinda like it...




What type of natural disaster does that graph include? Or how is it smoothed/averaged out because it doesn't show spike in 1970, 1991, or 2008 in each case over 100,000 people died as a result of Indian Ocean Cyclones.

*EDIT* I now see the links, now I'm satisfied
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Quoting SQUAWK:


Not quite. The people have made it #1. Not you. "Seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content" is a matter of perspective.
To each his own.

But it's not a matter of perspective; through testing of what information regular viewers of various TV networks know and don't know, researchers have been able to determine that Fox News viewers are, indeed, the least informed/misinformed of all. See post #269.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
Quoting SQUAWK:


Not quite. The people have made it #1. Not you. "Seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content" is a matter of perspective.
To each his own.
damn straight it wasn't me! any and every attempt to sit through their programming has not lasted more than minutes... collectively. i also do not shop at Walmart, eat at McD's or listen to pop music.

'we the people' is America as a collective. it is this collective that feeds on tripe. it is not me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Minnemike:
and what fine artists have we seen as #1 before... or what bank was #1... hmm, what store is #1 or what restaurant is #1?

the top slot does not indicate quality. there is much reason for picking on Fox news... not that there isn't plenty of reason to pick on some other networks too, but that doesn't change the fact that Fox has some seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content. they are #1 just like Walmart, McDonalds, or whoever's topping the pop charts today... thankfully I wouldn't know, but assume it's as crappy as usual.

we the people have spoken


Not quite. The people have made it #1. Not you. "Seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content" is a matter of perspective.
To each his own.
Member Since: December 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2498
It's certainly plausible that the perceived increase in the number of disasters is due to the fact that disasters are now more widely covered by news media than they were in the past. It's also likely that the effects of these disasters are more dramatic due to our growing population.

That said, it's also possible that there are a greater number of disasters now than there were in the recent past. The only way to know for sure is to look at the numbers.

Here are a couple of links to analyses of disaster trends:

Link 1

Link 2


Look for yourself and decide what you think the trends mean. One thing that I find particularly interesting is that as the number of reported disasters has dramatically increased, the number of reported deaths from disasters has dropped.



Considering the rapid population growth that has occurred during the period analyzed, this hints at our improved ability to protect ourselves against these disasters... maybe a ray of hope for an otherwise gloomy blog.



As a side note: RitaEvac, your response suggests that all media is bad. Do you not see the benefit of a free and open news media? Sure, there are plenty of reporters with agendas... but I'd much rather sift through a dozen agenda-biased articles on a topic than have a single state-sponsored story or no story at all. News media isn't inherently evil... when it is truly free (as in freedom), the media is exactly as humans are: left and right, informed and not-so-informed, biased and unbiased, benevolent and evil. Whether or not you think that is a good thing is a matter of perspective, I suppose. But, I kinda like it...


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.
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting RipplinH2O:
Since it’s come up twice today, and many times before, what is the fascination with Fox News? Are they any worse than everyone else since Walter Cronkite went off the air? By all ratings, they are the #1 news channel, the most watched. Seriously, to those that call them Faux News, among other names, what news outlet is isn’t biased in some way?

Fox News makes you stupid

"Yet another study has been released proving that watching Fox News is detrimental to your intelligence. World Public Opinion, a project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, conducted a survey of American voters that shows that Fox News viewers are significantly more misinformed than consumers of news from other sources. What’s more, the study shows that greater exposure to Fox News increases misinformation. So the more you watch, the less you know. Or to be precise, the more you think you know that is actually false."

http://www.alternet.org/story/149193/study_confir ms_that_fox_news_makes_you_stupid/

http://www.newscorpse.com/ncWP/?p=3409
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
Patrap, I don't know how many days ago it was, but I still have Robert Plant's Ship of Fools going through my head... had never heard of it before, and it's also Grateful Dead song title so I had to check it out when you posted a vid.

oy! on constant noggin shuffle
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Quoting RipplinH2O:
Since it’s come up twice today, and many times before, what is the fascination with Fox News? Are they any worse than everyone else since Walter Cronkite went off the air? By all ratings, they are the #1 news channel, the most watched. Seriously, to those that call them Faux News, among other names, what news outlet is isn’t biased in some way?
and what fine artists have we seen as #1 before... or what bank was #1... hmm, what store is #1 or what restaurant is #1?

the top slot does not indicate quality. there is much reason for picking on Fox news... not that there isn't plenty of reason to pick on some other networks too, but that doesn't change the fact that Fox has some seriously warped 'information' spewing from it's content. they are #1 just like Walmart, McDonalds, or whoever's topping the pop charts today... thankfully I wouldn't know, but assume it's as crappy as usual.

we the people have spoken
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Quoting Grothar:


Grothar, being Grothar, saw the error and corrected it immediately. If you can see in your quote,(244) it is spelled correctly. Remember, it is not how many mistakes one makes, but rather how many one can correct. But you do get an A for effort.
Thanks for pointing that out, Grothar. I thought I was suffering from an elliptical contusion or perhaps an optical illusion. ..... I keep getting those two mixed up.
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Insight is a ever expanding radii of conscience..

I remember that as well..skyepony.

The wu web-bot is born

A Brave Pilot and a True Patriot for Libya who chose to side with his people.

The Planes gonna be good scrap too for somebody.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 128641
Quoting NRAamy:
"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

Soylent Green....


It is People, Mr Heston at a fine career moment, good book too!
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Quoting atmoaggie:
Amazing what 20 minutes on thesaurus.com can do...

;-)


For your information, I have never been on a thesaurus. I am NOT that old. (P.S. I did look up the meaning of Twit, though)
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258 yea I believe
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258. Skyepony (Mod)
Some one in here called the first part of this the other day.. RitaEvac maybe?


..the pilot had been ordered to bomb oil fields southwest of Benghazi but refused and instead ejected from the plane.
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OIL ($/bbl)

Nymex Crude Future $98.36 up $2.94
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:




Grothar, being Grothar, saw the error and corrected it immediately. If you can see in your quote,(244) it is spelled correctly. Remember, it is not how many mistakes one makes, but rather how many one can correct. But you do get an A for effort.
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*snork!*

Quoting aquak9:


and gilbert didn't call the next day

(runs)
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
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.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting EYEStoSEA:
It's contagious and spreading....where's JForida when we need him.....
? He's right there, but in disguise...for some reason or another.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12463
Quoting islander101010:
joe b blew gilbert and thats a fact


and gilbert didn't call the next day

(runs)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Since it’s come up twice today, and many times before, what is the fascination with Fox News? Are they any worse than everyone else since Walter Cronkite went off the air? By all ratings, they are the #1 news channel, the most watched. Seriously, to those that call them Faux News, among other names, what news outlet is isn’t biased in some way?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting pipelines:
I hate to ask a dumb question, but why would global warming cause more frequent, severe droughts? If global temperatures increase, water levels will increase due to ice melt. This will increase the surface area of the planets oceans and combined with higher temperatures, should increase the amount of evaporation leading to higher amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere and thus, higher precipitation globally.

Not a dumb question at all.

First, as the planet warms, longstanding weather patterns will change. Less overall ice, warmer SSTs, and altered ocean currents will all conspire to change the temperature and precipitation patterns we're used to. As a result, some places will be generally drier than they are now, and others places will be generally wetter. Second, the warmer the atmosphere becomes, the more surface moisture will evaporate--not all of which will fall as precipitation in the areas that need it, but will rather be carried off elsewhere.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13551
It's contagious and spreading....where's JForida when we need him.....
Member Since: September 16, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 1492

Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Wait a minute. That "w" wasn't there a minute ago. ... Or was it? No I am really confused!
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Maybe its just me, but it would seem that aside from a few off years last 10-15 years, we are seeing a lot wider range of disasterous weather, be it droughts, floods or other severe weather (hurricanes definately). One really does have to wonder how we as whole will be able to handle these shifts. It does seem like a perfect storm is just a step or 2 away. Thanks Doc for the post, both informative, and yet very disturbing to see (especially the food prices,thankfully its just me and the lady to feed at the moment). We can hope for a tame year weatherwise globally, though the chances of that happening are low from what we are seeing...
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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.


there, no go have fun with this. - Grothar! Good to see you!

no go have fun with this? I understood everything else you said, but this sentence kinda befuddled me. Ya got sum splainin' ta do? - Sorry, Grothar. You so rarely give us a chance to catch you in error that I could not resist capturing this one.

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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 amount of global food reserves has recently been a bit less than 16% of annual demand... and expected to drop rapidly as folks in the NewlyIndustrializedNations increase their demand for meat (feed conversion approximately 7to1 for beef; 5to1 for pork; and 3to1 for poultry, and 2to1 for eggs and milk products)

A good overview about Food Insecurity and the Global Food Reserves.

142 NRAamyWe "Soylent Green...."

The heck with that, real baby back ribs ...mmm-mmm good. As Swift pointed out in his Modest Proposal, it's hopelessly inefficient to create and raise the little rugrats just to let them starve to death later when that same feed can instead be used to raise cattle.
After all, a trillion Moties can't be wrong.
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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.

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