Long ago when traveling through Europe, a friend developed what he called the “Alan Rule” since I never remembered the Celsius-to-Fahrenheit conversion math: 10 degrees Celsius, wear a coat; 20 degrees, a light jacket; 30 degrees, shirtsleeves.
There was no suggestion for 40 degrees because 40 degrees Celsius is a baking 104 degrees Fahrenheit, an unheard-of summertime temperature in almost every part of Europe.
One hot summer
Unheard of until last month, that is, when Europeans from Sweden to Italy and England to Poland sweltered in heat few had experienced in their lifetimes. In mid-July, for example, temperatures in Madrid peaked at 105.3 F, an all-time high, while Lisbon set a record high of 106.5 F.
Cool and damp England was neither in July. The temperature recorded in Coringsby, a city in eastern England, set an “all-time record high in the United Kingdom’’ of 104.5 F July 20. And, according to forbes.com, “Abed, Denmark hit 96.6 F, the hottest ever recorded in the country” July 21.
Europe wasn’t sweating alone. That same week, Zhouxi, Taiwan, reached 106 F, the hottest temperature ever recorded on the island, while Hong Kong hit 101 F that day.
And that’s the relatively good news. On Aug. 12, Scientific American reported that “The latest figures indicate that the planet’s northernmost region,” the Arctic, “is warming at a whopping four times faster than the Earth as a whole.”
Europe’s heatwave heated up the U.S. Department of Agriculture too. In its Aug. 12 world agricultural report, USDA cut the European Union’s 2022/23 corn production 12% below last month and 15% below last year. Most of the cut was due to heat-wilted, per hectare yields, down 13% from a year ago.
The EU’s wheat crop fared better, down just 4% from a year ago and only slightly below its five-year average production.
But it’s not just crops. Europe’s rivers, nearly as important to farmers there as our inland waterways here, are shrinking in the heat, too.
“The low level of Germany’s Rhine River,” reported DTN’s Mary Kennedy Aug. 15, “is causing problems for inland shipping, agriculture and coal-fired power plants… (that) affects the entire economy…”
The latest U.S. crop production estimates, however, see no such problem here. In fact, USDA’s most recent 2022 forecast, the often-market moving Aug. crop production report issued Aug. 12, mostly confirmed what everyone already suspected: 2022 U.S. corn and soybean production remains in line with previous estimates.
That doesn’t mean the crop is in the bin, however. Indeed, mid-August weekly crop condition reports showed both corn and soybean crop potential being steamed in local heat. Overall, the 2022 U.S. corn crop, for example, was rated at 57% “good/excellent” in Aug. 14 reports, the worst mid-August ratings since 2012.
Still, U.S. farmers may muddle through far better than others around the world. That, say climatologists, has more to do with luck than anything else.
Out of time
But the world is fast running out of luck. France endured its hottest May ever. Madrid just suffered through its warmest night on record, 79 F On the same day in mid-July, the U.S. experienced 100-degree-plus temperatures from its northern border with Canada through its southern border with Mexico.
We’re also running out of time even as we continue to waste time. It’s taken nearly a generation to get many of the biggest U.S. farm and ranch groups to even acknowledge climate change and years more to get the knucklehead caucus in Congress to finally act.
But even then, the $370 billion Congress just committed to fight climate change had to include some massive climate clunkers — like disproven carbon sequestration schemes, huge credits for carbon pipeline oligarchs, and subsidies for methane digesters — to secure enough knucklehead votes to pass.
The only way that makes any sense at all is that we will need to do far more and far better next year and every year after that.
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