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Drought disrupts passage of Mississippi, hurts farmers WGN Radio 720

ALONG THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER (AP) — Adam Thomas begins harvesting soybeans on his Illinois farm as the morning dew burns away. This year the dry weather accelerated his work and allowed him to start early. His problem was getting the soybeans to market.

About 60% of the Midwest and northern Great Plains are experiencing drought. Almost all of the Mississippi River, from Minnesota to the mouth of Louisiana, has had below average precipitation over the past two months. As a result, river levels have fallen to record lows, disrupting vital vessel and barge traffic to move recently harvested agricultural products such as soybeans and corn downstream for export.

Scientists say climate change is causing temperatures to rise, making droughts more common and severe, but meteorologists say this latest drought, which affects the central United States, will only last for a short period of time. He said it was most likely a meteorological phenomenon.

The lack of rain has severely affected commerce. The river carries more than half of all U.S. grain exports, but industry estimates cited by the federal government say the drought has reduced the flow of goods by about 45%. The price of rail transportation, which replaces the transportation of goods by barge, is also rising.

“It basically just means less income,” said Mike Dougherty, senior economist at the Illinois Department of Agriculture.

Thomas farms at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and doesn’t have enough grain storage to keep up with the high shipping costs.

“I had to get a discount,” he said.

Climate change is generally causing wetter conditions in the upper Mississippi region, but water levels have dropped in recent months, revealing parts that would otherwise be inaccessible. Guests walked across a typically submerged riverbed to Tower Rock, about 100 miles (161 km) southeast of St. Louis. It’s the first time tourists have been able to trek and stay dry since 2012. The track for four-wheeled vehicles meanders through a wide range.

The region finally got some rain in a much-needed break from the dry weather earlier this week.

Kai Roth, of the Lower Mississippi Forecast Center, said, “While it does help ease the pain of low water levels, it doesn’t completely alleviate it,” and the river needs a few “enough floods.” added that it is. rain. “

The barge hits the bottom and risks getting stuck in the mud. Earlier this month, the U.S. Coast Guard said there had been at least eight such “strandings.” Some barges touch the bottom but get stuck. Others need a salvage company to help them out. Barges are careful to keep their loads light so they don’t sink too deep, which means they carry less supplies.

To ensure the safe passage of ships, federal officials meet regularly to consider river depths, discuss with the shipping industry, and decide on area closures and traffic restrictions. Hundreds of barges may wait in line when the stretch is temporarily closed.

“It’s very dynamic. Things are constantly changing,” said Eric Calero, Coast Guard Director of Western Rivers and Waterways. “Every day, as we survey, we find shallow areas that need dredging.”

After the closed section has been dredged, officials will mark a safe channel to allow barges to pass through again.

In some locations, barge terminal warehouses are filling up, preventing further shipments, according to Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. He said the influx of grain into the endangered river transportation system was like “fitting a garden hose to a fire hydrant”. he added.

For tourists, most of the river is still accessible. Cruise ships are built to withstand extreme river conditions. Big engines fight spring rapids and shallow drafts keep the boats moving in droughts, with 190 passengers each.

However, night operations are restricted to allow ships to avoid the new obstacles brought by the drought. Also, some landing areas are inaccessible due to low water levels. The river has dried up along its edges. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, cruise ships were unable to reach ramps that normally take passengers, so the city enlisted the help of townspeople to lay gravel and plywood to create makeshift sidewalks. For some, it adds to the adventure.

“They’re experiencing headlines that most of the rest of the country is reading,” Robertson said.

Drought is a lingering problem in California, which just experienced the driest three years on record, stressing water supplies and increasing the risk of wildfires. Climate change is raising temperatures, making droughts more common and worse.

“Drier regions will become drier and wetter regions will become wetter,” said Jenn, a data analyst at Climate Central, a nonprofit organization of scientists and researchers who report on climate change. Brady says.

But Brad Pugh, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the current drought in the Midwest is likely “caused by short-term weather patterns” and has nothing to do with climate change. rice field.

In the Midwest, climate change is increasing the intensity of some storms. According to NOAA, the severity of flooding in the Upper Mississippi River is progressing faster than anywhere else in the country.

Some worry that manure and manure will build up on farms and be quickly washed away by heavy rains, reducing oxygen levels in rivers and streams and threatening aquatic life.

On rare occasions, communities are moving to alternative sources of drinking water away from the Mississippi River.The drought also threatens to dry up drinking water wells in Iowa and Nebraska, according to NOAA.

It is unclear how long the drought will last. Rain is likely in the short term, but NOAA says central states such as Missouri are likely to see below-average rainfall in November, potentially exacerbating transportation problems on rivers. I point out that there is. Northern states, including Michigan, are likely to experience more wetness in the winter, while southern states are expected to receive less precipitation.

“It takes a lot of rainfall to actually swell the river,” says Roth.


The Associated Press is supported by The Walton Family Foundation for its coverage of water and environmental policy. AP is solely responsible for all content. For all of AP’s environmental coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.

https://wgnradio.com/news/national/ap-drought-snarls-mississippi-river-transit-in-blow-to-farmers/ Drought disrupts passage of Mississippi, hurts farmers WGN Radio 720

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