Friday, August 24, 2012

Dust Bowl Remembered

Click to enlarge; Esc returns to post.

We are experiencing a significant drought this year. It prompted me to look back to the Dust Bowl days, 1934 and 1936. The maps above show the conditions that prevailed in July of 1934 and July of 2012. It tells me that conditions in 1934 were a whole lot worse. Agricultural practices put in place after the Dust Bowl days, to prevent future recurrence, were still in the future. The over-farmed regions turned into dust. We were also in the midst of the Great Depression.

The 2012 map, above, is instructive. I learned today that in the nineteenth century people called the region now known as the Great Plains (a map of that is shown as well) “the Great American Desert.” The land in those regions was considered very poor. But it was developed for agriculture nonetheless. On the 2012 map that is the region exhibiting the worst drought. The patterns between the two periods are very similar. The inset image is from Wikipedia’s article on The Great Plains.

No. This is not an attempt to question Global Warming. What the maps reveal is the fundamental geological characteristic of the North American continent. With masses of oil available, much water can be pumped—and poor soil can be made to yield crops by artificial fertilization. Changes in climate, whether temporary or permanent, can test marginal regions to the limit. This is happening now—but that test in 2012 is relatively mild. It was a whole lot worse in 1934.


  1. The 19th cent. called it the great American Desert. In the seventies in Wash. DC, it was referred to as the "Fly-Over States". as I remember.

  2. Hey, terrific blog post! I meant to read it Friday so we could talk about it yesterday and then I never got to it. I'm glad I did now, before I head from one fly-over-state to another, both happily well supplied with water.

  3. And that water, sister, we'll hold on to that -- even if in some future yet to come we'll have to declare ourselves, with bordering Illinois and Wisconsin and some Canadian brethren, the Independent States of the Great Lakes, the ISGL...

  4. Didn't I also read the name "North American Region" somewhere a good long while ago? But I do like ISGL... it's so much more today.

  5. You do remember, Brigitte -- but it was called the R.N.A.