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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Darn pat you mean you quote Vince Macmann lol.Tlak about a man who made millions off peoples gullibility.As far as your comment on Joe something you did not know .Before you critsize him too much, think about this you have no mercy for the widows son?For he was part of that group we have great pride in.Rememer our oath?
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San Francisco could see first snowfall in 35 years


"Yes, it's really possible that downtown San Francisco might see its first snowfall in more than 30 years later this week.

"Might being the operative word.

An unsettled cold air mass dropping from the Gulf of Alaska will bring colder temperatures and periods of rain to the San Francisco Bay Area, the National Weather Service said Tuesday. The mass could drop any snow amounts to sea level.

"That likely means snow at higher elevations and — possibly — light snow to downtown San Francisco for the first time since 1976, said Bob Benjamin, a weather service forecaster in Monterey."
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13461
Ciao fo now
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Joe B was fired,and this is what many of us knew 2 plus mths ago,that would and did spur his being fired.

Period,.



Long wrong Joe Bastardi cooks the books to smear NSIDC. Time for Accuweather to fire him.
National Snow & Ice Data Center explains Bastardi can't read graphs and "is unclear as to how standardized anomalies are derived"
December 5, 2010





And in the words of the best Hair in Business,

Joe B,..your fired
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127592
Quoting Levi32:
I'm out for classes. Later all.


Like always, EXcellent Tidbit; adds a lot of value to this blog
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Quoting Xyrus2000:


[citation needed]
er uh... just believe it ;)
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Post 183 you are exactly correct.And MinneMike did acknowledge that earlier.
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MinneMike well said I agree.I hear a lot of adults say our younger generation are know it alls and arrogant and disrespectful.While I agree with working with a lot of youth, but they had to get it from somewhere.For example; look at our politicians.Although we have some different ideas its refreshing for adults to be able to conduct themselves in a civil manner and quality discussion.Its a shame our highly paid so called leaders have no clue but how to stir up and waller in chaos.
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...But without faith we would be a even unrulier and desperate society...


[citation needed]
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Quoting JFLORIDA:
171 He's got the best forecasts of all ranked bodybuilders - lets leave it at that and move on.


BWAAHAHAAAAAH-HAH-HAH!!!
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I'm out for classes. Later all.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting jrweatherman:
Wasn't there a Dust Bowl in the U.S. that last for 10 years? I believe that was back in the 1930's. Were we facing Global Warming then?
If I remember my history correctly, the dustbowl was a combination of man made problem and drought. The government was encouraging people to settle in the plains and they plowed up the prarie grass that captured moisture and held the soil in place. Then a dry spell hit and all the moisture left the ground, then it just fed on itself, until the dustbowl. I am sure there is more to it, but that is the gist as I remember it.
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for the record, it's not Minnemite....

i think the avenue to qualifying perception has a split in the road. one path follows an idea that human's can fully comprehend this reality by their own lenses; the other path follows an idea that our lenses are skewed and reality is beyond our natural comprehension. religion follows the path where we define through the human lens, that which is all around us. science follows the path that says we need external verification to define all that is around us.


was this the statement that led to the confusion about how i relate science and religion? maybe the comment about strife between the two... thing is, science and religion become conflicted when the unanswered questions are attributed to causality by a higher being. that is when faith gets in the way of the scientific processes. if a scientist believes in God, it should not stop them from pursuing a solution to a problem, or finding an answer to a question... unless they cease their quest by attributing the solution or answer solely upon the causality of a higher being.
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The Dust Bowl was caused a combination of severe drought and farming practices which were unsuitable for the relative aridity of the high plains.

The drought eventually ended and farmers figured out better methods for farming in semi-arid environments.


Quoting jrweatherman:
Wasn't there a Dust Bowl in the U.S. that last for 10 years? I believe that was back in the 1930's. Were we facing Global Warming then?
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Well his preseason forecast for landfalling us storms was certainly no worse than NOAA"S.I thought Joe did a super job sniffing out potential storms,tropical and winter.But I did notice he got too passionate and argumentative about global warming Sound familiar?He must have took lessons from Masters blog just the opposite direction lol.Well i hope Noaa does a better job with the ever going to change MJOforecast last hurricane season was terrible.


The 2010 season was a statistical freak year to have so many storms with no hurricane landfalls on U.S. soil.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Well how bout dat
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Well his preseason forecast for landfalling us storms was certainly no worse than NOAA"S.I thought Joe did a super job sniffing out potential storms,tropical and winter.But I did notice he got too passionate and argumentative about global warming Sound familiar?He must have took lessons from Masters blog just the opposite direction lol.Well i hope Noaa does a better job with the ever going to change MJOforecast last hurricane season was terrible.
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Quoting PcolaDan:
I'm curious, how does a state recede from the Union? Does it just slowly pull back like my hairline did?
ROFLMAO Great, I was thinking the same thing, except I don't have a receding hairline.
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Quoting Drakoen:


lol I'm assuming you didn't see the comment I made in response for you justification of Bastardi as a "brilliant meterologist."


Apparently I did not.

I'm not going to debate his forecast accuracy because there is almost nobody to compare his kind of forecasts against, and unless you were a subscriber that actually read his column regularly you would know very little of his forecasting.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting Levi32:


Based on his last few posts it sounded more like a family/priority/work load thing.

Good to see you here, Drak.


lol I'm assuming you didn't see the comment I made in response for you justification of Bastardi as a "brilliant meterologist."
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I think this season will be bad for the gulf. steering currents are crazy
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
In due respect Minnemite I think you realize thier are many scientist who do believe in God and as a Matter of fact I know quite a few personally.So making the suggestion that if you study science you have to be a atheist is as you told Jed dead wrong.But believe or not not believe is your choice and I respect that.But you seem to present yourself as a highly intelligent, and well rounded indivual.Even you would have to say if you ever read the book of revelation it would make Masters post look like plagarism lol.Wars rumors of wars climate change economic disaster, famine, plague.Just curious even as a non believer you have to admit its a pretty accurate prediction.Maybe Dr. Masters feels its the four horseman of the appocalyse.Now thier was some light funning there nothing critical and I hope you took it that way.As far as gw I do believe in some ways we have had to influen ce our enviroment.The way the waste and pollution has tainted our waters and ecosystems is undeniable.And smog does not come from Godzillas breath lol.But to force it constantly down peoples throat without any objectivity will never open any minds either way.Keep up the good discussion.

well now, you did pull an incorrect assumption out of there. i never once stated you have to be an atheist to be a scientist. i only refuted Jed's personal assertion that observing the universe in scientifically enhanced ways would require faith in order to deny a Creator's existence.

my argument is that such observations do not require faith to maintain an atheist perspective. so you see, that is quite the inverse of stating a scientist must be an atheist.

of course many scientists believe in God. why shouldn't they...? as i illustrated in an earlier comment, faith is not science. therefore it's no conflict that a person believe in a Creator while pursuing the activity of scientific discovery. science is not religion, and needn't require nor utilize any facet of faith. faith is important, and as you correctly stated our society would be in a much darker place had faith not guided us through critical periods of history.

i have faith in spirituality. i believe the human being to be an intricately developed entity that can interact in yet unknown ways with each other, and the whole of life on this Earth. i revel in the remarkable attributes that faith can bring about, while at the same time we are each capable of our own private evils. it is an ongoing struggle with our species, and has been long before monotheism came to be. that is why the bible is relevant in the very ways you mention. we have been reliving the same experiences for many millennium.
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Well poor ole Joe Bastardd he was a fun during cane season
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Quoting Drakoen:


Embarrassment and Shame would be a good guess...for starters.


Based on his last few posts it sounded more like a family/priority/work load thing.

Good to see you here, Drak.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting clwstmchasr:


Maybe Joe will join the staff at the NHC:) Wouldn't that be a hoot!


We all know they wouldn't let him do that.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
OIL ($/bbl)

Nymex Crude Future $99.84 up $4.42


Keep it up OPEC, we'll bring you a revolution alright
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Quoting Levi32:


Bastardi was not fired. He left for his own reasons.


Embarrassment and Shame would be a good guess...for starters.
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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....
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This is NOT good:
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Quoting pinehurstnc:
so much for a weather blog,,and they fired bastardi!!! after , this prophet, proclaimed ,the end of the world,, how , interesting,,and, please.. stop the doctor,if it happens,, i much rather would have a doc, that can heal..


Bastardi was not fired. He left for his own reasons.
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting Floodman:


Texas doesn't have the right to secede, despite what "Moneybags" Perry may think


Really? That's too bad. I was going to volunteer my help to TX for filling out any necessary paperwork.
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so much for a weather blog,,and they fired bastardi!!! after , this prophet, proclaimed ,the end of the world,, how , interesting,,and, please.. stop the doctor,if it happens,, i much rather would have a doc, that can heal..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:

Quoting jrweatherman:
Wasn't there a Dust Bowl in the U.S. that last for 10 years? I believe that was back in the 1930's. Were we facing Global Warming then?
   Yes,Global warming started when the last ice age ended!
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Wasn't there a Dust Bowl in the U.S. that last for 10 years? I believe that was back in the 1930's. Were we facing Global Warming then?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Tropical Tidbit for Wednesday, February 23rd: Playing Around with the 1989 Analog
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
Quoting Orcasystems:
The local mets have changed their forecast for Victoria BC... from 1-3 cm of snow.. to 25 cm of snow.. one of them must have looked out the window, there is already 6" of snow on the ground.

Sorry Orca, I am as sick of winter as you are.

The DFW, TX was hammered by 3 Arctic weather systems is 10 days, the worst since 1987.
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Quoting PcolaDan:
I'm curious, how does a state recede from the Union? Does it just slowly pull back like my hairline did?


LOL
Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
In due respect Minnemite I think you realize thier are many scientist who do believe in God and as a Matter of fact I know quite a few personally.So making the suggestion that if you study science you have to be a atheist is as you told Jed dead wrong.But believe or not not believe is your choice and I respect that.But you seem to present yourself as a highly intelligent, and well rounded indivual.Even you would have to say if you ever read the book of revelation it would make Masters post look like plagarism lol.Wars rumors of wars climate change economic disaster, famine, plague.Just curious even as a non believer you have to admit its a pretty accurate prediction.Maybe Dr. Masters feels its the four horseman of the appocalyse.Now thier was some light funning there nothing critical and I hope you took it that way.As far as gw I do believe in some ways we have had to influen ce our enviroment.The way the waste and pollution has tainted our waters and ecosystems is undeniable.And smog does not come from Godzillas breath lol.But to force it constantly down peoples throat without any objectivity will never open any minds either way.Keep up the good discussion.
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hahahahahahaha!!!

:)

Member Since: January 24, 2007 Posts: 317 Comments: 31946
Quoting Jedkins01:


hahaha good point!

Oh I will if I can! I would try and make sure I could have a clear view of the sky as well.

I wonder if they allow meteorologists to take "observation breaks", cause I would be out getting my job clothes wet :)

When we get stormy days here in Central Florida, especially strong thunderstorm days, I always run between the computer, and looking outside, everyone always gets mad and says "make up your mind and stay with one, either outside or the radar".

I try and get as much of both as possible!
I spend a lot of time "observing" when there is something going on...
(a meteorologist with a basement office)
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I'm curious, how does a state recede from the Union? Does it just slowly pull back like my hairline did?
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Solar activity finally toning down a bit after a spat of higher activity during the middle portion of February.

Member Since: November 24, 2005 Posts: 635 Comments: 26548
You know the situation with Texas is worrisome.You know as a huge history buff one of the best quotes that I ever read,and one that sticks with me is "If we dont learn from history,then history is doomed to repeat itself."I really dont think this country has become this divided in political views and ideals since the Civil War.Is that what we really want?This weather blog is just a tiny voice in the crowd but look at the division and closed mindedness thats on here.Also world economic disaster and global and polictical chaos lead to what?In 1933 it led to Adolph Hitler.People easily forget history if they never experienced it.And im afraid in this country with the pitiful state of our two major polictical parties something like this could be a real and frightening possibility.maybe we should realize that we ar all americans, and put America first.
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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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