Question: As severe drought continues in places like the Texas Panhandle, western Kansas, and California, is the United States in danger of another Dust Bowl?
Answer: We can expect more extreme climate events in coming years, and drought across the southern Great Plains (e.g., Oklahoma, Texas) may become even more prevalent.
But we’ve learned some lessons since the 1930s Dust Bowl about maintaining plant cover on the soil and the value of erosion control and other conservation practices. So these efforts will reduce the likelihood of widespread wind erosion: i.e., another Dust Bowl.
However, in local areas, there is the chance for wind erosion and dust storms because of the lack of ground cover. A complicating factor is the observation that continuing drought is causing the death of native grasses, which exposes the soil to the wind. In other words, lingering droughts can wreak havoc on our ability to grow the plant cover we need to protect the soil surface.
In summary, we can assume that we won’t allow a repeat of the conditions that caused the first Dust Bowl. However, our changing climate may have a large role to play in what actually happens in the future.
–Answered by Jerry Hatfield, USDA-Agricultural Research Service
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