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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White Room Cam and More from KSC Discovery Launch

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Nice line setting up in TX, hopefully get a shot of some rain
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting jwh250:
Or just use code FMUYZ

Or stop being cheap, and buy a subscription. Or stop complaining about the ads. :-)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13441
Quoting weatherneophyte:


Don't really say much on here, mostly lurk. But I grew up in that area, I'm now 53 years old. When I was very young, we constantly had tremors, nothing new here. There was no natural gas drilling/fraccing going on in that area then to cause it.

The injection wells in and around that area may be the cause of the uptick in seismic activity, and they may not be. But--as with the pumping of 800 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each second--you'd have to be pretty narrow-minded to think shoving pollutants (many carcinogenic) into the ground at high pressure is a completely benign process.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13441
Quoting RitaEvac:
Doc has these kind of advertisements on the site at the top, taking money anywhere I guess


If you buy a subscription, ads like that will disappear from your screen. After all, Dr. Masters needs some way to cover the expenses of those who haven't paid his wallet-draining $0.20 per week fee. :-\

(And for what it's worth, he doesn't hand-select the ads; an external piece of software does that for him.)
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13441
I appreciate your on-the-ground evidence, but VA's comment said "according to the USGS" so I figured there must be an article or dataset that VA was referring to with that statement...

I've no doubt that there are "natural" triggers for earthquakes in your area, but there is ample evidence to show that things like fracking and deep injection of fluids for other reasons can definitely trigger earthquakes. This has been proven conclusively and I can provide links if you'd like.

I don't think anyone is suggesting that all earthquakes are caused by man, but there is absolutely no doubt that SOME earthquakes have man-made causes. The only way to know which is which is to look at the data. That's why I'm requesting VA's data...

Quoting weatherneophyte:


Don't really say much on here, mostly lurk. But I grew up in that area, I'm now 53 years old. When I was very young, we constantly had tremors, nothing new here. There was no natural gas drilling/fraccing going on in that area then to cause it.
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Quoting AussieStorm:
VIDEO: New Zealand's Darkest Day


impossible for me to watch without crying
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VIDEO: New Zealand's Darkest Day
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15882
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Not really, There were swarms in 1980, and 2001, according to USGS, they are not related to fracking


Don't really say much on here, mostly lurk. But I grew up in that area, I'm now 53 years old. When I was very young, we constantly had tremors, nothing new here. There was no natural gas drilling/fraccing going on in that area then to cause it.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting aquak9:
aussie...I'm wracking my brain. I'm still thinking air, steel, true linearity...

b'sides hun...it's been a rough day here at work...

The Answer........ Space Shuttle
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15882
thank you aqua
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In US state houses, Tea Party bills spark outrage
AFPWed Feb 23, 11:46 pm ET



In Utah, civil liberty groups have cried foul for what they see as an attempt to legalize clear discrimination.

The "Religious Conscience Protection Act," introduced by state legislator Richard Anderson, would ensure a person's "sincerely held religious beliefs" would not be violated over same-sex marriage.

In that vein, it also attempted to legalize denying "goods or services... that facilitate the perpetuation of a marriage."

The bill, said Troy Price, political director of One Iowa, a state-focused gay rights group had been a "shameful and hurtful attack on the institution of marriage."

The measure, he added, would not have just affect couples in a same-sex relationship "but opens the door to discrimination against interracial and interfaith couples."

The bill has foundered since being voted down in a judiciary subcommittee on February 9, but Anderson told the Des Moines Register after the hearing that although some people have "issues" with the bill, "we just have to continue to work on it."
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Quoting McBill:
This just in from the WTF department:

Conservative Utah group begins recall effort for Wisconsin Democratic senators




This is an interesting development. I'm a little peeved that a group from a different state has butted into ours.

How does this group from Utah think they can come here to influence our politics? They've been screaming for the recall of the 14 state senators that crossed the state line to stall the vote. My district is one of those 14. If it wasn't for their delaying tactic, the bill would have been approved after only six (6!) days. Six days is not enough time for everyone to read the bill and have an open discussion.

However, as the linked article states, while Wisconsin can recall a governor it can only be done after the governor has been in office for one year. Walker's term just started in January.
Member Since: August 13, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 303
Folks are really going to cringe when Oil Hits 200plus a BBl.

I hear the Saudi Kings are stocking up on Hair and Mustache Black Dye, and their Families are Googling "Destinations" a Lot.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Do you have a link?

Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Not really, There were swarms in 1980, and 2001, according to USGS, they are not related to fracking
Member Since: March 26, 2006 Posts: 44 Comments: 1520
Desperate times I tell ya, can't get in bed with the Russians Doc
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Uh no, I was trying to put and end to a stupid debate. Obviously left and right feel differently about the Wisconsin situation no matter who's right or wrong. The whole point is that someone ought to try and move that particular discussion somewhere else since it has absolutely nothing to do with weather or the current blog topic. I guess that's never stopped anyone before but does everyone here really want this to be a political blog? No...which was my point.
hokey dokey. Just seemed like it wasn't necessary to me and maybe a little bit like that which you were incited by...

Just sayin. Re-read 531 and and maybe see what I'm talking about.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
but you can sit there and take into consideration that the possibly of many things is causing them.

best damn post I've seen in weeks- - no matter what the subject is
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Doc has these kind of advertisements on the site at the top, taking money anywhere I guess

Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
you can not sit here and debate whether or not something is causing earthquakes. but you can sit there and take into consideration that the possibly of many things is causing them. my 2 cents.

gas prices here have gone up 30 cents in a week. so i'm left with 28 cents or -32 cents?

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aussie...I'm wracking my brain. I'm still thinking air, steel, true linearity...

b'sides hun...it's been a rough day here at work...
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KSC Live Feed


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Quoting hurricanejunky:


I can't speak for Stormjunkie but I know him well enough that I'm sure he'd agree with me.

For the record, my name is hurricanejunky not Hurricanejunkie...



heh heh heh...you're probably right...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
,..Shhhhhhhh

"Whisper words of Wisdom,,Let it be"..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Quoting AussieStorm:


Arkansas Earthquakes in Greenbrier Increase as Natural Gas Drilling and Fracking Increase!!!



Not really, There were swarms in 1980, and 2001, according to USGS, they are not related to fracking
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting atmoaggie:
Join him?
Ehh, I just don't see why.


Uh no, I was trying to put and end to a stupid debate. Obviously left and right feel differently about the Wisconsin situation no matter who's right or wrong. The whole point is that someone ought to try and move that particular discussion somewhere else since it has absolutely nothing to do with weather or the current blog topic. I guess that's never stopped anyone before but does everyone here really want this to be a political blog? No...which was my point.
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Quoting Patrap:
Google Gas Fracking,Conway,Ark,earthquakes


Arkansas Earthquakes in Greenbrier Increase as Natural Gas Drilling and Fracking Increase!!!

Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15882
I said to google it,,I never said they were related.


The devil is in the mind.

The Hannity Mind tricks dont work well on me ..

"He's not the droid your Looking for"..

LOL


J/K
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Quoting aquak9:


don't confuse StormJunkie with Hurricanejunkie- they are two different people


I can't speak for Stormjunkie but I know him well enough that I'm sure he'd agree with me.

For the record, my name is hurricanejunky not Hurricanejunkie...
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Quoting Patrap:
Google Gas Fracking,Conway,Ark,earthquakes



There is no evidence they are related pat
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Texas Earthquakes Maybe Triggered by Mining Process


23 Feb 2011


The injection deep into the earth of wastewater from natural gas mining may have spurred a series of small earthquakes in Texas, according to a new study.

Between Oct. 30, 2008, and May 31, 2009, more than 180 minor tremors were recorded near the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, an area unaccustomed to shaky ground. The quaking commenced shortly after the opening of a local disposal well for the liquid byproducts of natural gas mining — mostly brine, or saltwater.


"When these earthquakes first occurred we had no idea if they were tectonic or if they were human-induced," said Cliff Frohlich, a geophysicist at The University of Texas at Austin.

Natural earthquakes had been felt in other parts of the state, and human meddling had been tied to such movement elsewhere. The ground shook shortly after the filling of Lake Mead in the 1930s, for example, as well as after major oil extractions and fluid injections around the world.

While science can't prove that the injections triggered the Texas shaking, Frohlich suggested that new data, which show a large number of quakes striking close in time and space to the well's activity, does make a mere coincidence unlikely.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Spot on atto
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Google Gas Fracking,Conway,Ark,earthquakes
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Quoting hurricanejunky:


Thanks I think. I respect your viewpoint but I still disagree with you. I think I've held my tongue long enough. When the petulant brat in the room keeps on going with his little temper tantrums and derisive jabs at those who differ with his political views, it's time to...
Join him?
Ehh, I just don't see why.
Member Since: August 16, 2007 Posts: 6 Comments: 12461
Steel
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Quoting fireflymom:

From what I have been reading they do not yet have a grip on the reason for these quakes. Not seeing sstress build up on the Reelfoot fault but there may be a stress on another fault line further to the West of the Mississippi valley area, not enough sensors to determine.

Could it be from an unknown fault?
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15882
Quoting aquak9:


overcoming air resistance?

close, but what piece of engineering marvel owes its DNA to those things i mentioned before?
Member Since: September 30, 2007 Posts: 9 Comments: 15882
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


88 Earthquakes in the last week, could these all be leading up to the big one?

From what I have been reading they do not yet have a grip on the reason for these quakes. Not seeing sstress build up on the Reelfoot fault but there may be a stress on another fault line further to the West of the Mississippi valley area, not enough sensors to determine.
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Quoting SAINTHURRIFAN:
Hurricanejunky always respected your post.but your venomous attack back on this indivual is no better than his attack.I wish people could understand that the dems and the reps. are both the problem one is as bad as the other.Seems like this fox I believe that is how it is spelled news attacks is no better than someone attacking msnbc which is just as biased.Simple solution turn the channel on both.I guess this just illustrates my repetitive post that America is extremely divided and united we stand,and we are all Americans not the enemy means nothing anymore.Good day and God Bless.


Thanks I think. I respect your viewpoint but I still disagree with you. I think I've held my tongue long enough. When the petulant brat in the room keeps on going with his little temper tantrums and derisive jabs at those who differ with his political views, it's time to say something. People like that need to be told things in unpleasant terms because hostility seems to be the only language they speak. I am tired of sugar coating and trying to be nice.

As for Faux News, I never watch it so I do practice "turning the channel" as you suggested but when I have been exposed to it I feel like I need to be wearing a hazmat suit. The ridiculous opinions and nuggets they pull out of their butts is on par with toxic waste. That's my take. I thank you for the civil response. Have a great day.
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T-03H00M & THE COUNTDOWN CLOCK IS HOLDING AT T-03H00M 232 NTD,ALL
HOLDING
PLANNED HOLD
IS 2 HOURS

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*THE NEXT PLANNED HOLD IS AT T-20M00S*
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ICE TEAM READY FOR PAD ENTRY 232 NTD,*ICE

CLEAR ICE TEAM & CLOSEOUT CREW TO PAD 232 NTD,SAFETY
SECURITY

PERFORM ICE/DEBRIS INSPECTION 105 NTD,*ICE

INGRESS ORBITER CREW COMPARTMENT 232 NTD,OTC,OVCC
132

GO FOR FLIGHT CREW WAKE UP 232 NTD

PERFORM COMM CHECKS 132 OTC,ASP

ALL ORB TEST TEAM SWITCH TO CHNL 212 212 OTC

CONFIGURE & INSPECT CREW MODULE FOR CREW 212 OTC,ASP,OVCC
INGRESS

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NOT PERFORMED____________ (CONTINGENCY)

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232
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ER OPEN LOOP CHECK COMPLETE 232 NTD,OTC,CCSE
CBRS, RANGE
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 419 Comments: 127355


MESOSCALE DISCUSSION 0124
NWS STORM PREDICTION CENTER NORMAN OK
1034 AM CST THU FEB 24 2011

AREAS AFFECTED...PARTS OF ERN OK/TX...WRN AR AND NWRN LA

CONCERNING...SEVERE POTENTIAL...TORNADO WATCH LIKELY

VALID 241634Z - 241730Z

THUNDERSTORMS ARE GRADUALLY INCREASING IN BOTH AREAL COVERAGE AND
INTENSITY WITHIN BROADER WARM CONVEYOR FROM THE I-35 CORRIDOR SOUTH
OF THE DFW METROPLEX...NWD INTO OK. THIS ACTIVITY IS EVOLVING
WITHIN A VERY STRONGLY SHEARED ENVIRONMENT THAT IS EXPECTED TO ONLY
STRENGTHEN INTO THE AFTERNOON HOURS AS LLJ INCREASES IN RESPONSE TO
DEEPENING CYCLONE. ALTHOUGH CONSIDERABLE CLOUDINESS IS OBSERVED
ACROSS THE WARM SECTOR IT APPEARS LARGE SCALE ASCENT/COOLING WILL
GRADUALLY STEEPEN LAPSE RATE ENVIRONMENT ENABLING NEAR-SFC BASED
CONVECTION TO ROOT INTO MORE BUOYANT BOUNDARY LAYER PARCELS.
SUPERCELLS AND POSSIBLE TORNADOES CAN BE EXPECTED...ESPECIALLY LATER
THIS AFTERNOON AS CONVECTION SPREADS INTO THE LOWER MS VALLEY.

..DARROW.. 02/24/2011


ATTN...WFO...LZK...SHV...TSA...FWD...OUN...

LAT...LON 32029634 35599561 35039295 31689387 32029634
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88 Earthquakes in the last week, could these all be leading up to the big one?
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oh Aquak did not think that sounded like storm Junkie but the message is still the same.
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Quoting AussieStorm:
What does, A church Pipe organ, a German u-boat, tram tracks, a camera and a cannon ball all owes its engineering DNA to??????


overcoming air resistance?
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Quoting NRAamy:
hey junky!

:)


Hey!
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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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