By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — Another Dust Bowl could be coming within the next few years.
Scientists and meteorologists have been cautioning for years that such an event could occur based on historic weather trends and tree ring analysis. During a recent visit to the Peoria County Farm Bureau auditorium, meteorologist Mike McClellan of the Mobile Weather Team tackled the “Dust Bowl redux” rumor in front of around 50 local farmers who gathered to hear his spring and summer weather outlook, but came away with much more to think about.
“It’s not just rumors going around, there is a little bit of fact to this,” said McClellan, who is sometimes employed as an official meteorologist for Professional Golf Association Tour events. “Historic patterns are pointing to a big drought in 2024-2025. Believe it or not, there is some merit to it. How we in the Midwest would be impacted by it is the big question.”
Though McClellan declined to predict whether a drought the size and duration of the Dust Bowl might soon occur, the veteran meteorologist said it’s best to be prepared for such an event than to be caught unaware. On January 10, 2023 there were two significant solar eruptions that were powerful enough to impact satellites in space. With solar activity on a recent upswing and expected to peak in 2025, the invigorated solar cycle would align with the Gleissberg Solar Drought Cycle, which occurs on average just once every 89 years, according to McClellan. (The last Dust Bowl was said to begin in 1936, with 2025 being the next projected Gleissberg Cycle year— a span of exactly 89 years.)
When you consider those factors together with projections gleaned from the Brenner “Tree Ring Cycle,” which was named for a mid-1800s farmer who discovered that the width of tree rings can tell the long-term history of annual wet and dry seasons, all signs seem to point to a very dry year in 2025.
“If you look at every 89 years, there were droughts in 1846-1847 and 1935-1936. Could it possibly be here again in 2024-2025? But what happened in the 500 years prior to that? We don’t know. Is it a coincidence or is there something to it?” McClellan said, adding that he has looked “very deeply” into the question.
“I think there is something to it, I just have yet to be convinced that we can say for sure that we’ll have a drought in 2024-2025. I just can’t do that yet.”
McClellan is far from alone in cautioning farmers and others of the possibility of a Dust Bowl-like drought beginning in 2025. At the 2020 Iowa Power Show in Des Moines, Iowa State University meteorologist emeritus Dr. Elwynn Taylor presented his case for another Dust Bowl occurring that same year.
“2025, what is the magic thing about that year?” Taylor asked during his presentation, according to a Progressive Farmer report. “When we looked at those tree rings, there have been dust bowls more than once in this part of the country, and they’re 89 years apart – or 90, or 91, or 88, or 87, but 89 on the average – looking back for 600 years from the growth of our oak trees that survived in Iowa.”
A 2016 paper issued by the University of Chicago relied on computer simulations to model the effects of Dust Bowl conditions on modern agriculture, with profound results. The simulations projected corn and soy crop yields would decline by around 40 percent and wheat yields would drop by 30 percent. The study also determined that every one degree Celsius (1.8 F) increase in temperature would cause the effects of the drought to worsen by 25 percent.
“In a world where drought and heatwaves become routine, the two might combine to tip the country into a situation where agriculture becomes increasingly threatened, with profound impacts on US food supplies,” according to an article about the study originally published by Yale E360 and reproduced by Mother Jones.
To learn more about McClellan and the Mobile Weather Team’s short and long term weather forecasts, visit www.mobileweather.com or www.mobileagsolutions.com (a weather site designed specifically for farmers).