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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Walker reminds me of Eddie,,a tad slow,but always thinking
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting Patrap:
Real tomato Ketchup,Eddie ?



For you, nothing but the best Clark.

I always wondered why they call it "Hamburger Helper". Tastes pretty good by itself, if you ask me.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13263
Real tomato Ketchup,Eddie ?



For you, nothing but the best Clark.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Quoting scott39:
A 5th grade prank is not going to help an already inflamed situation with the teachers.

I think it will help. Walker, under the impression he was talking with one of his billionaire bosses, inadvertently tipped his hand and showed that all his talk of "It's all about the budget!" is a complete and utter crock; the country--and more importantly, Wisconsin--now knows that he's corrupt, unethical, petty, vindictive, and prone to lying. I'm not sure how that can do anything but help the teachers.

Anyway: STS-133 is indeed ready to go. Fueling started about 20 minutes ago in preparation for a 4:50 launch. I only wish I could be there for this one, though I plan on making the next one.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13263
Rut-roh,Jorge

GENERAL DEPLOYED
PSY-OPS ON U.S. SENATORS



Techniques Were Used 'To Manipulate Visiting American Senators Into Providing More Troops And Funding' For Afghanistan War
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Prank Koch, or Classic Koch ?
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Ping NASA 101


Shuttle Discovery on Deck, up to today's task 5 X 5.





LIVE NASA TV

NASA - KSC Video Feeds



KSC Live Feed


Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
Are sub-freezing temperatures over for the LA,MS,AL, Gulf Coast?
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Quoting Neapolitan:
Nasty weather pattern setting up for the lower Mississippi valley; there's a moderate risk of nasty stuff, with the possibility of an increase to a severe risk. IOW, the springtime fun begins...

Perhaps most prank phone calls "are not for the good of the people", but the Walker/"Koch" one certainly showed the Governor to be underhanded, unethical, corrupt, callous, and dishonest.

He's got a lot of explaining to do to the people of Wisconsin...
Oh, Like 99% of all politicians. There were no suprises from you were there?? I will try to make myself clearer. A 5th grade prank is not going to help an already inflamed situation with the teachers.
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Click for more
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Nasty weather pattern setting up for the lower Mississippi valley; there's a moderate risk of nasty stuff, with the possibility of an increase to a severe risk. IOW, the springtime fun begins...
Quoting scott39:
My point about hearing private conversations of politicians, will only stir up mess. We elect them into office to do a job, and thier fired if they dont get results. Prank phone calls are not for the good of the people.

Perhaps most prank phone calls "are not for the good of the people", but the Walker/"Koch" one certainly showed the Governor to be underhanded, unethical, corrupt, callous, and dishonest.

He's got a lot of explaining to do to the people of Wisconsin...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13263
Morning all. Looks like another wonderful wx day in Nassau, Bahamas. Currently 65 @ the airport, with high precicted around 80, moderate breezes due to high pressure.... good stuff.

Hope your weather is as pleasing to you. Didn't I see a severe wx outbreak warning last night?
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


My point about hearing private conversations of politicians, will only stir up mess. We elect them into office to do a job, and thier fired if they dont get results. Prank phone calls are not for the good of the people.
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self deleted
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Quoting Patrap:
Ta-Dahhhh!!!

90,000 posts

Do I get a tax Break now, or a stock option?


If you every show up in Trento, I'll buy you a beer. Not quantity, but consistent quality. Cheers.
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A few rain showers so far on the SW LA, SE TX Gulf Coast; not too much so far. Forecasting more for tomorrow nite.

I for one, will miss Joe Bastardi. I certainly won't miss his opportunistic comments about GW, but for me, he was a good Hurricane Forecaster from 2000-2006. After that, he got a little pricey, and too much commentary about GW that shouldn't have been in his forecasts anyway. Didn't think he was that hot about Winter weather, but he did nail the tropics. JMHO.
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Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:

Not that it is right, in this case, but Obama was elected to represent the nation. The citizen groups of Utah were never elected to represent the people of Wisconsin. How would you like it if citizen groups from Texas tried to influence the politics of your state government?

Gosh. I just caught up to the end of this blog and it looks like I killed it. Sorry. Out for the night and back to lurking later.

Be safe. Be happy.

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Quoting twincomanche:


Hopefully I have no clue what you are talking about. I asked a simple question. Are you so intellectualy dishonest that you refuse to answer me? You know what we are talking about. Can Obama's crew get involved in this and others are not allowed or can anyone get involved? Simple question, simple answer.

You liberals are so dishonest.
Not that it is right, in this case, but Obama was elected to represent the nation. The citizen groups of Utah were never elected to represent the people of Wisconsin. How would you like it if citizen groups from Texas tried to influence the politics of your state government?
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Quoting twincomanche:
I am beginning to understand that I may be the only conservative on the blog and therefore hardwired differently than most of you. Or maybe it's from being a small business man for forty years.

I own my company. I am a fiscal conservative. This should not imply that I fall for everything that the "conservatives" brand as being conservative. You make investments now that benefit you in the future. Investments cost money and you should choose what you invest in wisely. What benefits the future of this nation, as a financial super power, is to invest in the education and health of our citizens. This is the best bang for the buck you will ever get in an investment. How we get there is debatable. What is not debatable is the truth in this statement. Try being an economic power when your workforce is uneducated and at risk of poor health. Even China knows this and is making huge efforts to educate their people and provide health care for them. I do  not want this nation to become another China. I want this nation to always be ahead of China. We currently are losing ground with China at an ever increasing pace.

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Quoting twincomanche:


Each and every one of these arguments will only be true if you allow yourself to be a victim. I refuse to be a victim and encourage each and every one of you to take the pledge.

I refuse to be a victim. I make my own decisions and live with them right and wrong.

Will you be saying this the next time you are filling your gas tank or when your credit card company raises your rates simply because THEY CAN?

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Quoting twincomanche:


Because the scientists are corrupt for they take money from HORRORS, the government, rich guys, evil corporations and bloated academic institutions financed by the government, rich guys and evil corporations. Get it?

Actually, I always that it was the commodities speculators that reaped profits off the pain and horrors of others.

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I had to quote myself since I see more bickering.

Quoting caneswatch:
Here we go with the conservatives bickering about the liberals again on this blog. Geez, have you guys ever heard of the line "United we stand, divided we fall?" Y'all need to get along, quit bickering about this party did that, and just maybe this nation will get back on its feet again.

/endrant
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
The NHC is trolling us. I've been waiting for the Tomas TCR for a while, and they've updated the 2010 page with the map, but they haven't put up the Tomas TCR... next to the name, there's a parenthetical statement that says "coming soon" -_-
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Quoting scott39:
Politicians on both sides are corrupt. What the prankster did was not honorable! If it would have been a Democrat, I would have felt the same way. Im a moderate Democrat/Independent, although I called that conversation like I see it. He thought it was a private conversation with someone he thought he knew. I would not have wanted to hear President Bush's coversation no more than I would want to hear President Obama's or anybody elses for that matter.

Actually, I would love to hear every politicians' "private" conversations concerning their governing practices. Most especially when there is a lobbyist on the other end of that conversation. I want a fair and open government. How else do you get it? Do you take their word that they are fair and open? Let me know how that is working out for you. I could care less what their party affiliation is. Their affiliations should ALWAYS be with their constituents and NEVER with outsiders of their district.

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Just wanted to let everyone know that the CCHS WEATHER CENTER website is back now!
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Complete Update







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Quoting twincomanche:


It's all about the spending stupid!

Not directed at you personally. If you tax the rich guys at 100% rate you only run the government for four hours. We need to cut spending!


Yea, but where do you get the money to spend in the first place.

You can't spend (ok, maybe you can...but you shouldn't) unless you have money in the first place.
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Quoting twincomanche:
Off for the night. Communication breakdown here.


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451. washingtonian115
4:00 AM GMT on February 24, 2011
Quoting washingtonian115:
I'm sorry it's far not that.This website has been acting funny for me today.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 15707
450. washingtonian115
3:57 AM GMT on February 24, 2011
Quoting twincomanche:


We have to go from Florida to Northern Illinos By the looks of the GFS it seems to mainly be a midwest event.But it's to fart out in time to make exsact details.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 15707
447. WaterWitch11
3:49 AM GMT on February 24, 2011
my first time in new orleans can not be during the mardi gras. too many noises, too many people and too many distractions. april-june is more like it.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1482
445. Patrap
3:40 AM GMT on February 24, 2011
Thats very nice thing.

Happy Mardi Gras

Les the Bon Tomps Roule

www.mardigrasneworleans.com

When you're ready for the big experience, you'll need to know when it will be!

You'll find the big day can fall on any Tuesday between February 3 and March 9. Carnival celebration starts on January 6, the Twelfth Night (feast of Epiphany); and picks up speed until Midnight on Mardi Gras, the day before Ash Wednesday.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 414 Comments: 125530
444. WaterWitch11
3:32 AM GMT on February 24, 2011
Sparkles...

Schweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet.

Mardi Gras always needs color,..

Parade on Magazine Friday Night.



my goal is to go to new orleans with my crazy red headed sisters by june. believe me if i go, i will give it to you in person! have a happy mardi gras.
Member Since: August 11, 2008 Posts: 3 Comments: 1482

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About JeffMasters

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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