The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 25, 2007

Southwest Missouri patterns baffle even experts

By Linda Greer

Southwest Missouri patterns baffle even experts

“That dust got in everything. You couldn’t keep anything clean,” Rakes said of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. “No grass would grow in the yard. Boy, it was rough.”

Rakes was born on a small farm north of Seneca, 150 yards from his home today. As a young man, he raised horses, cattle and hay on land his great-grandfather settled in 1871. Now 71, Rakes said he has studied the weather during his lifetime, and he worries that humans have contributed to a change in the Earth’s climate, and the frequency and intensity of storms. He predicts a bleak future for farming.

“You’ve got to have so much more money and land,” Rakes said. “It’s a bad situation. I think about my kids and my grandkids. I’m concerned as the dickens, but I don’t know what to do about it.”

After two dry years, just as Southwest Missourians began to fear a return to a decade-long drought like that of the 1930s, the weather suddenly shifted this spring to too much precipitation. Flooding this month along Spring River was among the worst on record.

Those weather swings are what concern the experts.

‘Huge swings’

Meteorologist Richard Heim, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., said Southwest Missouri has experienced “huge swings from very dry one year to very wet the next year,” from “horrible drought to flooding.”

Compared with the mean, Heim said, January and February were wet months; March was normal; April was dry; and May and June were wet.

“It’s just bouncing all over the place,” he said.

The driest year for Southwest Missouri since 1889, running from June to May, was 1954, with 23.39 inches for the year, followed by 1981, 1964, 1956 and 1953. The past 10 years included 2000 as the 10th driest, 2003 at 11th, 2006 at 20th, and 2007 at 38th, Heim said.

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