An upside of climate change

We’ve been told repeatedly that global warming has no upside. It’s all hellish temperatures and/or high water according to some. But, according to this USA Today -Weather Channel story, there is an upside in USA crop production.

They go on to say:

“Plant seed companies are making more productive, short-season varieties,” he said. “It’s both climate change but also technology change.”

Brad Rippey, a U.S. Department of Agriculture meteorologist, said warming temperatures have made a big difference for crops such as corn and soybeans.

For example, data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service show that in 1980, about 210,000 soybean acres were planted in North Dakota. That has gradually increased to more than 3 million acres in recent years.

Complete story here

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Frosty the Snowman
October 12, 2010 12:21 am

Nothing is permanent except change – Heraclitus
Genesis 41:1

October 12, 2010 12:30 am

This type of choppy narrative is the current recipe for a climate or weather related story: here the AP throws so many quotes and statistics together that they will make your head spin.

The change is due in part to a 7% increase in average U.S. rainfall in the past 50 years, said Jay Lawrimore

Huh? A 7% increase in “average” US rainfall in 50 years … what about the rainfall changes where the soybeans and corn are being grown in the Dakotas? That’s what the story is about!

“The storm tracks are moving northward as the climate warms,” Lawrimore said.

Still, not sure how this directly translates to the current situation. The storm tracks are quite variable from year-to-year and from week-to-week.

The Earth’s temperature has risen about 1.3 degrees since the late 1800s …

So, what does this have to do with the Dakotas: how has the temperature changed there? The article is half over and no mention of the local changes, yet.

But USDA meteorologist Eric Luebenhusen said others are doing well. He noted Nebraska and Illinois were especially wet this year, and he said Iowa has “almost become the tropical rain forest of Middle America.”


Along with the trend toward more rain is an increasing frequency of torrential rains. Since 1958 those have increased 30% in the Midwest and 65% in the Northeast.
“It all depends how that comes about,” Babcock said. “In general, more rainfall means less irrigation and more ability to produce crops. Getting 4-inch rainfalls on a regular basis, that’s not good for crops.”

Increasing frequency of torrential rains? What is the definition of torrential? Also, 1958 is a year that’s popping up quite often — we must have some data prior to that? Ah, yes, look up above in the article:

“In Iowa, it was second-wettest summer on record, and the state is coming off its wettest three-year period ever, dating back to 1873, said Harry Hillaker, a state climatologist.”

So, where is the rigorous meteorological / climate peer-reviewed study that actually figures this out? Is it weather related or technologically based — as discussed in the article? Regardless, this article mashes together a bunch of extraneous statistics on global temperatures, US trends, and provides anecdotes in place of actual data in the region in question.

Patrick Davis
October 12, 2010 12:32 am

Putting aside “global warming” etc, couldn’t this increase be as a result in changes in farming practices, sush as fertilisers and peticides in much more use in the modern age?

Alex the skeptic
October 12, 2010 1:02 am

🙂 With this increase of vegetation-enhancing CO2 gas and its side effect of causing more rainfall, we may yet see a tipping point towards a global explosion in the global biomass, the return of the dinosaurs and the T-rexes gobbling up all human beings on planet earth. Its worse than we thought.

October 12, 2010 1:26 am

That’s a fine crop of hornswoggle they have growing there…

October 12, 2010 1:27 am

Ryan Maue sums it up nicely in just one word…

Mike McMillan
October 12, 2010 1:36 am

Warmer, wetter. Fertilizer, pesticides, hybrids.
Pay no attention to that man hugely increased CO2 behind the curtain.

Mike McMillan
October 12, 2010 1:37 am

Darn I hate it when I mess up the html.

Jose Suro
October 12, 2010 2:20 am

Soybeans are used to make biodiesel……. Although the $1.00 a gallon tax credit expired, lobbies are hard at work to get it back. ND farmers profited from this credit, hence the push to expand soybean production. See here:
This has nothing to do with climate. Yes it’s been raining more in ND, raining dollars that is :).

Alexander K
October 12, 2010 2:20 am

The article is mostly glittery puff, written by folk who don’t know a whole lot about farming or the cyclic nature of the seasons that govern every farmer’s life.
Most farmers I know are aware that if they work extremely hard doing something that can be quite boring and tedious they will enjoy some good seasons and maybe a brilliant season from time to time. What they won’t do is chop and change chasing trends; farmers who do that go broke quite rapidly.

Ian E
October 12, 2010 2:33 am

CO2 is a great plant growth aid – one of the negative feedbacks on changes in its aerial concentration.

October 12, 2010 2:50 am

So can anyone estimate how much biomass we have added via the burning of fossil fuels, and how that compares with, say, the biomass of humanity itself?

October 12, 2010 3:20 am

As opposed to the growing season moving southwards, and a colder/drier climate with less C02 requiring more water/plant.
For the farmer (who cannot move his location) that would mean a shorter growing season, lower yield/acre and higher water costs (provided that irrigation water is available). Otherwise, if enough natural water does not support the crop reaching harvest, failure is the result.
Untimely precipitation, late start to growing season, early frosts not included.

R. de Haan
October 12, 2010 4:20 am

“To make a real difference on global warming, our energy efficiency would need to increase by between 4% and 6%, something that seems close to absurd”.
Putting this blatant promotion of the GW doctrine aside, you can’t compare US energy use with a country like Denmark.
1. The size of the country
A. Higher power grid transport losses
B. Americans drive more miles because of the bigger distances
C. Bigger country, more energy needed for distribution.
D. In the US cities have been build in deserts (hot) and cold area’s
Much energy is needed to pump water, cool or heat buildings.
The US has a huge mining industry, a massive farming and agriculture (feeding the world) and the the biggest army in the world.
Despite these “set backs” the US is in the top 3 of energy efficient nations.
And the Green environmental/political establishment wants to destroy this “amazing example of civilization” based on lousy computer models and totally disturbed world views.
It’s time for a reset.

October 12, 2010 5:27 am

It is the large pattern that matter the most.
Recent droughts stifled growth of terrestrial vegetation

October 12, 2010 5:30 am

Genesis 41:1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile…
I’m sorry my dear, cool friend, but I haven’t the faintest idea of to what you might be alluding.
Please could you go the whole hog and put me out of my misery by being plainly forthcoming.
If we are to play some form of biblical ping pong, I’m going to have to go and find some ammo!

Dave from the "Hot" North East of Scotland
October 12, 2010 5:43 am

I have no training in agronomy,merely a BSc, but it occurs to me that if agricultural innovation develops faster than natural cycles we are in grave danger of seeing a repeat of the dust bowl crises that hit the prairies in the early to middle decades of the 20th century. Then farmers were encouraged to buy, plough and plant vast acreages without fully understanding the long term meteorological cycles on the plains. Eventually, wheat was modified to make best use of the climate there, but not before a great deal of hardship and heartbreak for those involved in pushing the farming frontiers.
If we are on the verge of rapid cooling, do the ND soy farmers have an exit strategy? Will the US Govt be ready to help out given their preoccupation with Catastrophic Climate Change/Disturbance/Oscillation/Wobble* ?
* delete where not applicable.

Mike Davis
October 12, 2010 5:55 am

The drought issue is common in a cooling world which we have been experiencing since 1998 or earlier and will get worse with additional cooling through this portion of the cycle.

R T Barker
October 12, 2010 6:09 am

According to statistical data in the cereal yield (kg/ha) for the US has more than doubled between 1965 and 2005. Worldwide cereal yield has also nearly doubled in that same time period. The data is available for every year from about 1961 to 2005. It would be interesting to see how well that data correlates with the atmospheric CO2 data.

Dave in Delaware
October 12, 2010 6:21 am

When I see a story like this, I am reminded of the Plant Hardiness Zone Maps. The hardiness zones are indications of annual minimum temperature range (winter), but they give a good first indication of the general shift in growing conditions as you move between the states.
We are told that a 2 °C temperature shift would cause gloom and doom and disruption of crops. Compare that to the 5 °F (2.8 °C) bands in the map.
It has always seemed to me that such a temperature change would have the effect of moving Iowa-Nebraska growing conditions (think lots of corn and soybeans) up into the Dakotas and Minnesota. The USA Today article seems to be saying that. And what about the impact of ‘warmer’ on Iowa – Nebraska? Well the next warmer temperature band covers much of Ohio – Indiana – Illinois, also prime areas for corn and soybeans.
For the areas discussed in the USA Today article, see link to Plant Hardiness maps at – The 2003 US National Arboretum “Web Version” of the 1990 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Note: This publication is not copyrighted, and permission to reproduce all or any part of it is not required.
And just to show that these zones reflect the growing season (not just winter), you can compare to the American Horticultural Society Plant Heat-Zone Map, where they show a map of “Average Number of Days per Year Above 86 degF (30 degC) “. The map is in the link to Downloadable Heat-Zone Map pdf
This link is to their web site
Note the copyright and limitations to use (I presume posting a link to their web site is acceptable without obtaining written consent)
“The AHS Heat-Zone map is a copyrighted document that is wholly owned by the American Horticultural Society. Any reference to, reproduction of, or attempt to code plants using the map’s information without written consent by AHS is a violation of the copyright.”
Dave (grew up in Iowa)

Dave in Delaware
October 12, 2010 6:31 am

Mike @ October 12, 2010 at 5:27 am
was not able to connect to your terrestrial vegetation link
The server at is taking too long to respond.

Myron Mesecke
October 12, 2010 6:39 am

“Alex the skeptic says:
🙂 With this increase of vegetation-enhancing CO2 gas and its side effect of causing more rainfall, we may yet see a tipping point towards a global explosion in the global biomass, the return of the dinosaurs and the T-rexes gobbling up all human beings on planet earth. Its worse than we thought.”
Would this be Gaia coming up with a solution for the over population of humans? lol

Douglas DC
October 12, 2010 6:55 am

Now cooling:
from yesterday here at WUWT:
I fear cold more than warm. Far more. We are cooling…

CRS, Dr.P.H.
October 12, 2010 7:04 am

I tried to find some supportive publications from the University of Illinois agricultural science folks, but apparently they don’t publish what they talk about around the water cooler = Illinois will be a net agricultural winner in a warmer, wetter world with more CO2.
I guess it’s hard to get money for researching & publishing alternative views to CAGW doctrine. *shhhhh!* You’ll risk your tenure! Cowards!

October 12, 2010 7:41 am

Mike says:
October 12, 2010 at 5:27 am
It is the large pattern that matter the most.
Recent droughts stifled growth of terrestrial vegetation

Mike, quick….run for it! Your shadow’s almost caught you!

October 12, 2010 7:45 am

From the USA Today article:

The change is due in part to a 7% increase in average U.S. rainfall in the past 50 years, said Jay Lawrimore, chief of climatic analysis for the Asheville, N.C.-based National Climactic Data Center.

English is not my first language. That provides some disadvantages but also some advantages.
Sometimes I have to search for the right words to express myself properly, but that is outweighed by the advantage of having to understand words properly, so as to be able to make correct choices of words I wish to use or filling in those that others should have used.
I don’t generally confuse the spelling of “their” by wrongly using “there”, avoid using “aks” instead of “ask”, and have never yet used “affect” when “effect” is the correct word that should be used. While to use “aks” instead of “ask” is an obvious error that many people nevertheless are prone to make easily, the use of the verb “affect” instead of the correct verb “effect” is one error that is acceptable for many because it is not so obvious.
Why would a respectable and popular publication like USA-Today use “Climactic” instead of “Climatic”? Is that perhaps a pun that relates to the climax reached in a tipping point, or is it a blooper? If it is a pun, was it made deliberately (although nothing in the article would warrant making it), or was it made subconsciously?
At any rate, the USA Today article does not mention one obvious and proven reason for rising agricultural production. That is increasing availability of atmospheric CO2.
It seems odd to me that, in addressing the impact of climate trends on agricultural productivity, the National Climatic Data Center forgets all about CO2, an important and controlling causative factor for increased agricultural productivity.
The omission of CO2 is not only apparent in the USA Today article, but CO2 in relation to recent increases in agricultural production glares through its absence at the website of the National Climate Data Center.

G. Karst
October 12, 2010 8:08 am

We have all benefited from the climb up the warming side, of the LIA recovery. What steps are being considered, for the consequential slide down the other side of the cycle, when we must experience, the removal of these benefits. That could be a cruel lesson in reality. GK

John Phillips
October 12, 2010 8:10 am

The development of quicker maturing corn varieties is the dominant factor in successful ND corn growing. However, even with the quicker varieties, most corn crops did not mature in ND in 2008 and 2009 due to short cool summers. So the article is full of @#*!. Most farmers had to wait until the next spring to harvest the previous year’s corn. The 2010 crop has done extremely well. The corn harvest has just begun, but high yields are expected. Soybean harvest is almost complete with high yields this year. Bottom line, corn growing in ND, while potentially very profitable with todays high prices, is still very risky even with the quick maturing varieties.
A wet period began in ND starting with 1993. A local lake with no outlet has been rising. (Devils Lake). The lake is now nearing a level that will cause it to naturally overflow into a local river. But before anyone jumps to the conclusion that the lake level rise is caused by unprecedented climate change, they should be aware of the well documented fact that when the first explorers and settlers came to the Dakotas, the lake level was about where the current lake levels are now. The level went down from there to its lowest level in 1942. Ever since 1942, the lake has been on the rise, more or less.

October 12, 2010 8:10 am

Yup. It’s a dirty little secret, but warmer is better.
Tragically, the Earth is cooling, which is less than desirable, all things considered.
And humanity, taken en masse, is getting dumber, which may not be causational but it is certainly robustly correlated.

Mike Smith
October 12, 2010 8:13 am
October 12, 2010 9:17 am

Remember… warmer is supposed to equal wetter, yet, over the last century, there has not been a detectable increase in the precipitations levels.

October 12, 2010 9:31 am

Mike says:
October 12, 2010 at 5:27 am
“It is the large pattern that matter the most.
Recent droughts stifled growth of terrestrial vegetation

From your link:
““Climate models are unanimous that temperatures will go up” in the future, says Running. “What’s unknown is whether precipitation will go up as well,” he adds. “We don’t have enough fundamental understanding of how climate is going to unfold.””
So, how accurate can projections up to 100 years into the future be accurate or even slightly realistic when it is unknown whether precipitation will go up, down, or stay the same? I think the answer is obvious: The IPCC’s reports are not worth the paper they are printed on, and all the money going into mitigation schemes and CO2 reduction is wasted.

October 12, 2010 10:13 am

There has never been a downside to global warming, if it is true, there has only been fear mongering to squeeze billions of dollars out of the economy so we can throw it away on fraudulent science.
Anyone in their right mind knows that a warm planet is better than an ice age. And every farmer knows that CO2 is good for plants growth. The farmers who say otherwise are liars, and they are lying to get on the AGW gravy train.
This has never been about science, the truth, or plain ol’ common sense.

October 12, 2010 10:18 am

R. de Haan says:
October 12, 2010 at 4:20 am
Read this to laugh:

Brian D
October 12, 2010 10:36 am

The weather patterns this year have put a strain on crop production in the world. Commodity prices are up amid fears of shortages. So look for increased food prices down the road. The weather pattern for a season will make or break crop production, and this year was very unfriendly to many regions.

October 12, 2010 10:48 am
Chris B
October 12, 2010 10:55 am

This 1990 documentary has the CRU’s number already.

Chris B
October 12, 2010 10:56 am

That’s documen …tary, not …tart. LOL

October 12, 2010 1:54 pm

Tom Vilsack (USDA Secretary) blames their poor crop forecasts volatile weather patterns due to climate change. Has nothing to do with their forecasting methods, obviously (sarc off );jsessionid=D473C2376053DA4FD97BE52906011497.agfreejvm2?symbolicName=/free/news/template1&paneContentId=5&paneParentId=70104&product=/ag/news/topstories&vendorReference=b88006fa-b53c-4980-88e5-e3a4e3a4d33e
Vilsack doesn’t think there are gaps in reporting, necessarily, but he said 2010 was a unique year in weather patterns across the country. The secretary said the problems stem from volatile weather patterns that will increase because of climate change. “If it’s a wake-up call in respect to this, it’s that we’re going to continue to see more severe weather patterns and we’re going to continue to see, as a result of climate change, the need to adapt not only in terms of how we farm but also how we keep track of and make estimates on the impact on farming.”

An Inquirer
October 12, 2010 2:15 pm

Mike says: “Recent droughts stifled growth of terrestrial vegetation”
Here are a couple of quick interesting points about that article – and undoubtedly there are more.
The article describes a 1% drop in terrestrial vegetation during the last 10 years, but there was 6% increase before that. Not only are we ahead, but measures of global mean temperatures have slightly declined since 1998 while showing a increase before that. So warmer temperatures are associated with more vegetation and vice versa for cooler temperatures.
Also, the areas in brown are very interesting. No doubt drought played a role, but also there were a lot of human activities in those areas, including deforestation and land use changes – prompted by Congressional support for bio fuels – in the name of fighting global warming.
The irony continues . . .

An Inquirer
October 12, 2010 2:17 pm

You may be interested in an actual farmer’s experience. We in fact are using corn hybrids with shorter maturity dates than in the past. Scientists may tell us that the growing season is getting longer, but that is not what the frost is telling us.

Richard G
October 12, 2010 9:09 pm

I have cousins who are the 4th generation farming land first put into production by my grandfather. They have crop yield records going back 100 years. The consistent trend in productivity is upwards. A persistent trend that shadows this is atmospheric CO2 increase. (Not to mention other contributors like land leveling, irrigation, better seed lines, better equipment, better techniques, better ag. research services, …) I always kid them that every tank of gas that gets burned into CO2 is a farm subsidy for them.

Eric Anderson
October 12, 2010 11:05 pm

I have to agree with Ryan that the story doesn’t make much sense as a “climate change” story. The good part? At least one story that suggests the change may be positive. Several thousand more stories like that and we might start getting close to some kind of balance in the reporting. 🙂

October 13, 2010 2:02 am

Now Anthony you’ll have to explain why higher night temperatures and heavier rainfall have to do with a warming scenario. If the press is still in the XX century when it comes Climate Dynamics, it doesn’t mean that you have to be there too.

October 13, 2010 4:06 am

if you are looking for more information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is a detailed and interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at which allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

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