California pays the price for Corn Belt’s cold snap

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click image to zoomDrought MonitorThe Drought Monitor map released on July 24, 2014.
click image to zoomDrought MonitorChanges made over a one-week span to the latest Drought Monitor map

Unseasonably cool air descended on the nation’s heartland last week, easing stress on crops across the Corn Belt. It wasn’t exactly the second coming of the so-called “Polar Vortex,” but the region enjoyed a brief reprieve from summer heat.

Thursday’s Drought Monitor report showed the benefits of the cooler weather. Drought conditions improved in 11 states from Texas to Kansas and Colorado to North Carolina. In Texas, a state dominated by drought since 2010, 58 percent of the state was reported in moderate or worse drought – down from 63 percent last week.

The Plains and Midwest can thank the jet stream for making an unlikely return to the United States. The jet stream is usually flowing across parts of Canada during this time of the year, according to digital meteorologist Jason Meyers. Last week, however, the jet stream dipped further south into the United States, leaving warm ridges on either side of the cold trough.

click image to zoomThe Drought Monitor map of California as of July 22, 2014. The West Coast was caught in one of jet stream’s ridges, which allowed heat to build and  drought to persist. In California, where 82 percent of the state is in extreme or worse drought, this weather pattern is the exact opposite of what it needs to end the drought. Read, “It's a polar vortex, but everyone's missing the point.”

According to a recent report, the California drought is costing the state’s agriculture $2.2 billion, and it doesn’t appear California’s drought will end soon. For some farmers, the economic burdens brought on by the drought may be enough to throw in the towel.

"It's very simple economics, but it's such an emotional topic," Richard Howitt, a University of California, Davis professor emeritus of agriculture and resource economics said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Farmers have to sit down and ask themselves... do they want their children and grandchildren to be farming?"

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