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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Got to watch my typing before I post.
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 3112
Tell it like it's is.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
C'mon, now. That was respectful needling...you're not really miffed about it, right?
Hardly!
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Interesting feature Jason..


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Patrap or something like that.
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Old schul, schweeeeet



Everybody is a Star.wmv


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835. afj3
Quoting Patrap:


roger,dat.

anytime.

I did it thanks to you! All I needed was some help and you came through. Thanks!!!
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Hey Patrap can we play everyone is a star in the mind. By sly and the family stone.
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833. afj3
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting afj3:

Thank you so much!!!!


roger,dat.

anytime.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127664
830. afj3
Quoting Patrap:
Thats the wundergrond radar. Use View / Save This Image on the bottom of any wu radar.

Then take the single image and post in the comment box,preview it,then post using the Image button below .

No such things as ignorance my friend,,we all just need to share the info and we learn together here.

Thank you so much!!!!
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Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
AMEN!!!!!!!!!APOCALYPSE-INDUCED MISANTHROPIC ENVIROMENTAL NERVOUSNESS!
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Thats the wundergrond radar. Use View / Save This Image on the bottom of any wu radar.

Then take the single image and post in the comment box,preview it,then post using the Image button below .

No such things as ignorance my friend,,we all just need to share the info and we learn together here.

Sometimes the NWS radar dont stick well here.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127664
826. afj3
Quoting Patrap:
Its all good jason


How do you do that??? I am trying to post a link with a NWS radar loop so it is visible to all in the blog but it won't let me. Please excuse my technical ignorance but can you tell me how you posted a moving radar image>
Thanks!
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825. afj3

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Quoting KoritheMan:

Yeah, summer's are actually quite bearable if one has a swimming pool.
Not only a swimming pool...but money.
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Quoting KoritheMan:

:(
C'mon, now. That was respectful needling...you're not really miffed about it, right?
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Its all good jason

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127664

Quoting washingtonian115:
Yeah I like summer becuase of hurricane tracking to,but I also like it becuase I can withstand heat more than cold,and I do alot of activities in the summer.I'm a swim fool as well.Yes we do have indoor pools,but I like them outside better.
Yeah, summer's are actually quite bearable if one has a swimming pool.
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351
WGUS53 KPAH 250239
FFWPAH
ILC153-250630-
/O.NEW.KPAH.FF.W.0003.110225T0239Z-110225T0630Z/
/00000.0.ER.000000T0000Z.000000T0000Z.000000T0000 Z.OO/

BULLETIN - EAS ACTIVATION REQUESTED
FLASH FLOOD WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PADUCAH KY
839 PM CST THU FEB 24 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PADUCAH HAS ISSUED A

* FLASH FLOOD WARNING FOR...
PULASKI COUNTY IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS...

* UNTIL 1230 AM CST.

* AT 827 PM CST...LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS REPORTED TWO
BRIDGES WASHED OUT AROUND OLMSTED. ONE IS THE WEST CEDAR STREET
BRIDGE IN OLMSTED...AND THE OTHER IS AT CENTER CHURCH ROAD NEAR
OLMSTED. COUNTY HIGHWAY OFFICIALS ARE ON SITE.

* LOCATIONS IN THE WARNING INCLUDE...
OLMSTED...
MOUNDS...
MOUND CITY...
KARNAK...

NO SIGNIFICANT ADDITIONAL RAINFALL IS EXPECTED. HOWEVER...RUNOFF
FROM EARLIER RAINFALL WILL CONTINUE OVER THE NEXT FEW
HOURS...FURTHER AGGRAVATING ANY AREAS OF FLOODING.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

DO NOT DRIVE AROUND ANY ROAD BARRIERS. MOST FLOOD RELATED DEATHS
OCCUR IN AUTOMOBILES. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS WATER COVERED
BRIDGES...DIPS...OR LOW WATER CROSSINGS. NEVER TRY TO CROSS A
FLOWING STREAM...EVEN A SMALL ONE...ON FOOT. TO ESCAPE RISING WATER
MOVE UP TO HIGHER GROUND.

BE ESPECIALLY CAUTIOUS AT NIGHT WHEN IT IS HARDER TO RECOGNIZE THE
DANGERS OF FLOODING. IF FLASH FLOODING IS OBSERVED ACT QUICKLY. MOVE
UP TO HIGHER GROUND TO ESCAPE FLOOD WATERS. DO NOT STAY IN AREAS
SUBJECT TO FLOODING WHEN WATER BEGINS RISING.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127664

Quoting atmoaggie:
Presslord. Could you pass along your therapist's phone number for a fellow WUvian?
(j/k)
:(
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817. afj3
Quoting afj3:
img src="">

Sorry to flood the blog with my stupid postings. I can't get the radar to show up in my posts, just the link to the radar. I'm stupider than a troll!!!!!
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Well lets try trading places then in the winter.On monday I almost froze my a** off standing their at the train station in both the afternoon,and the morning.The cold to me is the enemy unless of course it's air condition in the summer. Yeah I like summer becuase of hurricane tracking to,but I also like it becuase I can withstand heat more than cold,and I do alot of activities in the summer.I'm a swim fool as well.Yes we do have indoor pools,but I like them outside better.


Deal. I hate the summer. I pretty much do everything inside. Once the power is knocked out because of a hurricane, you're better off up north.
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815. afj3
img src="
Quoting afj3:
Link
">
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...Multiple record high temperatures set today...

Here is a summary of the record high temperatures set today...Thursday February 24 2011.

New Orleans International Airport set a record high today of 83 degrees which broke the old record of 81 set in 1982.

Slidell Airport set a record high today of 81 degrees which broke the old record of 74 set in 2000.

Baton Rouge Airport set a record high today of 83 degrees which broke the old record of 82 in 1944.

McComb Airport set a record high today of 81 degrees which broke the old record of 80 set in 1980.

New Orleans Lakefront Airport set a record high today of 84 degrees which broke the old record of 81 in 2001.

Pascagoula set a record high today of 77 degrees which broke the old record of 73 in 2003.

Gulfport set a record high today of 75 degrees which broke the old record of 70 in 2001.

As a reminder...the length of record is rather short at Slidell...Pascagoula and at Gulfport.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127664
813. afj3
Link
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Quoting pottery:

I have never experienced Fring...
Here, it is the 2 month season that commonly comes in between 2 10-month summers. A meld of fall/spring. Tulips popping up while trees are still holding orange and brown leaves... Mosquitoes flying slower...

Though, the last few Frings have been interrupted by a few weeks of winter. But this condition is the anomaly.

I'll drum up that IPCC plot of the Fring anomaly...brb.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting twincomanche:


There were people lighting their tap water long before fracking.


And burning their rivers, too:

"...June 22, 1969: The Cuyahoga River in Northeastern Ohio catches fire. The river meanders through the Cuyahoga Valley for 100 miles and empties into Lake Erie. Moses Cleaveland, a surveyor, found the mouth of the river in 1796 and liked the area so much he settled there and established his eponymous town. For a very short time, the Cuyahoga River was the western border of the United States.

Industrial pollution wasn't new in the 20th century. The river had caught fire several times before. In 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, 1952, and in 1969. The fire in 1952 did between $1 and $1.5 million in damages to boats and riverfront property. The 1969 fire was much smaller. It was under control and extinguished within 30 minutes and did only $50,000 in damages. It is thought the fire started from a passing train throwing sparks that set fire to an oil slick. It was rather a non-event in Cleveland at the time with only the local fire patrol acting to put out the fire.

Small stories were buried in the local papers. However, Time Magazine ignited national interest when they carried the story about the burning river. The same problem was found in the Baltimore Harbor, the Buffalo River in New York, and the Rouge River in Michigan. The Cuyahoga River fire was the one to make it into the August 1, 1969 Time article.

In 1963 the Cleveland area was already concerned with cleaning up the river when they instituted the Cuyahoga River Basin Water Quality Committee. In 1968 the city of Cleveland passed a $100 million bond with the money going to clean up the river. In that same year, the federal government spent $160 million for the entire nation. Businesses were encouraged to clean up their effluvium and many did so voluntarily or due to pressure from the community. The river was improving, as can be inferred from the differences in damages between the 1952 fire and this one. Efforts have continued to improve the beautiful river and in 1998 the Cuyahoga River was one of 14 listed as American Heritage Rivers. While the river is beautiful in spots, the EPA continues to monitor problem areas – areas of stagnation and with unsafe levels of pollution..."
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Quoting KoritheMan:

Really? Really? This may be an awkward tale to tell, but I actually removed everything during Gustav while in the privacy of my room. I'd consider doing it again too in the event of another hurricane.
Presslord. Could you pass along your therapist's phone number for a fellow WUvian?
(j/k)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting caneswatch:


I'm from Florida, and I don't mind it. I can handle the winter up north. It's not too bad for me.
Well lets try trading places then in the winter.On monday I almost froze my a** off standing their at the train station in both the afternoon,and the morning.The cold to me is the enemy unless of course it's air condition in the summer.
Quoting KoritheMan:


Though to be fair, I only "like" summer because of hurricane tracking. The is equally unbearable.
Yeah I like summer becuase of hurricane tracking to,but I also like it becuase I can withstand heat more than cold,and I do alot of activities in the summer.I'm a swim fool as well.Yes we do have indoor pools,but I like them outside better.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
.the inverse, in SE LA's summers, however, is not possible.
Really? Really? This may be an awkward tale to tell, but I actually removed everything during Gustav while in the privacy of my room. I'd consider doing it again too in the event of another hurricane.
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Quoting atmoaggie:
I can put enough clothes on to be comfortable in winter...the inverse, in SE LA's summers, however, is not possible.

Fring is nice.
Winter is okay.
Summer is terrible.
(JMHO)

I have never experienced Fring...
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Oh I'm with you on that one.


I'm from Florida, and I don't mind it. I can handle the winter up north. It's not too bad for me.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Oh I'm with you on that one.


Though to be fair, I only "like" summer because of hurricane tracking. The heat is equally unbearable.
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Quoting KoritheMan:


Funny. I despise winter. :P
I can put enough clothes on to be comfortable in winter...the inverse, in SE LA's summers, however, is not possible.

Fring is nice.
Winter is okay if it happens.
Summer is terrible.
(JMHO)
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Quoting KoritheMan:


Funny. I despise winter. :P
Oh I'm with you on that one.
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800. xcool


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Quoting atmoaggie:
For Feb, it sure the heck was...I hope we haven't already had our spring. I despise summer...


Funny. I despise winter. :P
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SPC tornado index likes this spot:

Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting presslord:


yes.....indeed I did.....and...Hello, Atmo...
Greeting and salutations, earthling.
Glad to see you back in here.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting Patrap:
It was hot atmo.

We drank indoors today.

Less Humidity inside.
For Feb, it sure the heck was...I hope we haven't already had our spring. I despise summer...
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Quoting pottery:

Wow! You must have been a real mess, if this is an improvement....
(you left yourself wide open there, Press...)


yes.....indeed I did.....and...Hello, Atmo...
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Quoting Patrap:


I knew he was a wise man,..

Sperienced as to them Swirlie's.

Yes indeed.


2011 gonna bthe Powa somewherering.

All too soon.

Not liking the above map showing wetter than average for our area in June-Aug either.
Take the Powa somewhere else....
Like out for the Fishies (if any are left out there....)
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Evening all, hope everyone who saw enjoyed the shuttle launch earlier today.

Tell you, I thought it wasn't gonna happen. It was only 2-4 seconds before a scrub that they said go for launch and picked up the count again.
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About

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.