The admonition to "make hay while the sun shines" is a cruel joke on farmers in the Northeastern United States this year, where there has hardly been a dry day in over a month. There has been so much rain, in fact, that some hay fields have been cut three times already without enough drying time to bale them. It is very hard to get even mulch bales of hay around here, while feed corn rots in the fields. The Addison Independent reports that Vermont dairy farmers face a perfect storm of challenges - high fuel prices, depressed milk prices, and the soggy weather - that could cripple the industry. Vermont is seeking federal disaster relief for dairy farmers who have been impacted by the heavy rains, and elsewhere in the region farmers are feeling the economic impacts of the wet weather.
The rivers are high but flooding is quite modest compared to the Delaware and Susquehanna drainages that are now experiencing record high water levels. The Atlantic Ocean is unusually warm for this time of year, which in turn creates excess moisture in the atmosphere and can produce powerful rainstorms. Marine life are often very sensitive to temperature gradients, and just a couple of degrees difference can lead to range contraction and loss of viability for many species.
Compelling new research in this week's issue of Science reveals evidence that rapid changes in ocean water temperature profoundly influence the cycling of the Gulf Stream and the climate of the Northern Hemisphere. A catastrophic release of glacial melt water from the Great Lakes of North America about 8,200 years ago precipitated the most pronounced climate cooling period in the last 10,000 years. Rapidly warming ocean temperatures can affect climate change in dramatic ways as well, including a weakening of the Gulf Stream with corresponding harsher winters in western Europe and more severe droughts in Africa.
"The scenarios of higher temperatures and considerably more rainfall employed in the National Assessment suggest that heat waves, droughts, and especially floods, may occur more often, last longer, and inflict greater damage to crops than they do today. Production risks include direct physical plant damage by flooding and water-logging, as well as related problems such as increased pest and pathogen outbreaks, enhanced soil erosion, and threatened groundwater quality from increased pesticide and herbicide runoff. Current state-of-the-art crop models like those used in the National Assessment do not fully capture yield reductions due to increased climate variability and related disturbances. Once these effects are fully incorporated into the models, it is expected that the projections of future US crop yields under climate change could be significantly lower than currently estimated."
Climate Change is real and the activities of our species are accelerating its impacts. This crisis demands leadership at the highest levels and particularly from the national government, which after all is charged by no less authority than the US Constitution with promoting the general welfare and securing "the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."