The 1930s dust bowl included the worst single-year drought in the western U.S. in the last millennia, as well as some of the worst droughts in the U.S. as a whole in the last century. We are investigating the agricultural impacts of a similar drought in the present-day and in the near future, when temperatures are warmer and CO2 concentrations are higher. Initial results suggest that a drought of this magnitude in current climate would result in production losses significantly larger than any observed drought in recent history.
Initial results indicate that by the middle of the 21st century, warmer temperatures and a dust-bowl-like drought may lead to a decrease in maize production of up to 80%. However, the 1930s Dust Bowl was unique in not only its intensity, but also its persistence. Droughts were widespread in three out of five years, and temperatures elevated throughout the decade. The implications of successive droughts on crop prices remain unclear. Current research is focusing on linking persistent large-scale drought to crop prices through stock-to-use ratios.