Down the mighty Mississip

ohiomomAugust 17, 2012

Any posters live along this stretch of river? I have read several articles recently about there being more beaches along the Mississippi than there are in Florida.

Quote: It has been estimated that if all Mississippi River traffic was stopped that it would cost the U.S. economy 300 million dollars a day. So far most of the media coverage of this historic drought has focused on the impact that it is having on farmers and ranchers, but the health of the Mississippi River is also absolutely crucial to the economic success of this nation, and right now the Mississippi is in incredibly bad shape. In some areas the river is already 20 feet below normal and the water is expected to continue to drop. If we have another 12 months of weather ahead of us similar to what we have seen over the last 12 months then the mighty Mississippi is going to be a complete and total disaster zone by this time next year.

In the end, who is going to pay for all of this?

You and I will.

In fact, this crisis could end up costing American consumers a whole lot of money....

Here is a link that might be useful: source of course

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labrea_gw

Memphis!

This is very sad!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:17AM
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markjames

We make the most money during hot, dry and sunny periods between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Rain, clouds and cold weather kill much of the tourist and staycationer traffic.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:26AM
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ohiomom

Well no offense Mark, but what does this have to do with traffic of our goods on the Mississippi?

The Platte has already dried up something like a 100 mile stretch, fish are dying and for me this is about more than "staycation".

I mean it is not like their will be a "vacation bailout" by taxpayers :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:31AM
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markjames

It has to do with tourism economics as mentioned in the article.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:36AM
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ohiomom

Well then I am missing it, because I just re-read the article and I see nothing about tourism ... shrug

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:40AM
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ohiomom

Ah nevermind ... the "river boats" not running.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:54AM
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jodik_gw

I have an old friend... closer to an acquaintance... who captains a tug on the Mississippi... I wonder if it's impacted his job and living? I haven't talked to him in years... way before Katrina hit the area. He had a cute little shotgun home in New Orleans.

With this drought, though, how much grain will there be that will need moving? In our area, the corn is nil. Don't yet know about soybeans...

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:00AM
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david52_gw

Massive fish losses all throughout the midwest.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:11AM
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ohiomom

David isn't the Colorado river also way below normal levels?

Is the southwest drying up?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:20AM
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david52_gw

Its pretty bad. The 'monsoon' season is now winding down, which helped a bit, but our reservoirs are the lowest they've been in 9 years, harkening back to the 2002 'exceptional' drought.

The fires have started up again, and visibility from the smokey haze is down to 10 miles.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:24AM
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ohiomom

I think those of us (myself included) that live near the great lakes tend to take our water for granted ... we may see a huge migration of people in the coming years leaving the deserts of the southwest, unless of course we lose our source.

Interesting (to me) fact. Lake Erie is less than 4,000 years old, it actually is a river valley.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:30AM
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markjames

When we were kids, our great grandfather told us we would likely live to see a time when others would kill to have our water, timber, undeveloped land, potable water, rivers, lakes, streams and cool temperatures.

Since I've done a lot of work in areas where drought, polluted water and wells running dry are common, I've never taken our water resources for granted.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:40AM
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duluthinbloomz4

For some reason, I always thought the origins of the Great Lakes were in the same time frame. Lake Superior is said to be about 10,000 years old - dating to the last glacial retreat which gouged out the basin.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mississippi River low water marks

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:46AM
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ohiomom

I don't know about the "killing" us for our water, I do see a big push by the corporations to privatize our lakes. As it is oil companies are "wasting" millions of gallons of un-recoverable water in fracking.

Seems that others think that our resource is not all that important ... ie: corporations.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:47AM
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david52_gw

I don't think the last chapter has been written about the environmental damage of tens of thousands of fracked gas wells, particularly in the arid west.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:51AM
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markjames

BTW, "kill for" is just a figure of speech, it's not meant to be taken literally.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 11:08AM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

This is global warming and if the Republicans win, who still have their heads in the sand about much of this, it will bring down our country in the forseeable future. They want to dismantle the EPA, and I suspect grants for scientists who try to find solutions will also "dry up". This goes far beyond partisan politics and if we don't pick the right government at this election we could be facing a doom and gloom scenario of unprecedented proportions. This is no longer some probable scenario in the far future, it is happening RIGHT NOW. What are the chances of the Romney/Ryan team doing anything to try to save this dire situation?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 11:40AM
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david52_gw

What are the chances of the Romney/Ryan team doing anything to try to save this dire situation?

You mean, aside from cutting taxes on millionaires and deregulation?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 12:10PM
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pnbrown

It's not a figure of speech in many arid parts of the world.

That photo at memphis is pretty shocking.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 3:18PM
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jodik_gw

After watching the man who predicted global warming and his estimates from the early 1980's, from the pre-drought days to present, on tv recently... and seeing all his bell charts that were once only predictions become documented as scientific fact today, it puts a new spin on conservation and how important this is to the very survival of our planet and species.

He once again stated if we don't do something now, the year 2020 will be too late. The scales will have tipped to unrecoverable, and 50% of the species on our planet will be extinct, flora and fauna.

His book covered/predicted three droughts that killed a lot of human beings because of the heat, one being somewhere in Russia where over 75,000 people expired due to heat... his newest book is called "Storms of My Grandchildren", by Dr. James E. Hansen.

This man outlined a plan, step by step, long ago which would have averted the happenings of today, but no one listened... the industries and their government puppets called him a conspiracy theorist. If we keep burning fossil fuels, we are doomed.

"Dr. James Hansen is Paul Revere to the foreboding tyranny of climate chaos - a modern-day hero who has braved criticism and censure and put his career and fortune at stake to issue the call to arms against the apocalyptic forces of ignorance and greed." - Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 6:14PM
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dicot

How widespread is the decrease in US river flows from this summer's weird weather? I haven't followed it that closely or seen anyone do a comprehensive analysis.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 7:41PM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

I'm sorry, the photo is missing. This is from the NYTimes archives. It seems the last great drought shutting down the Mississippi River barge traffic was in 1988 rather than 50 years ago. The river was severely affected during the 1934 to 1938 Dustbowl as well. In the many articles I saw discussing it, several mentioned dredging. If I remember correctly, dredging was considerably cut back over the past several years despite damage from flooding. Poor Corps of Engineers. They get flack no matter what they do.

"Search All NYTimes.com

Archives

COLLECTIONS>DROUGHT
Drought Affects Mississippi River Traffic
Published: June 16, 1988
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The riverboat President steaming past idle barges on the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Near Greenville, Miss., more than 700 barges were backed up on the river, unable to continue navigating in either direction because of a low water level caused by the drought that has struck the Middle West. The Army Corps of Engineers said twice as many barges could be stranded by the weekend. (AP)"

Fifty years ago would put it at 1962. So it seems the river is severely affected by drought about every 25 to 30 years. I wonder what a more complete record would suggest. Four major droughts doesn't seem enough to establish a really complete picture but it does seem it is not unusual.

The sad fact is that there is a drought somewhere in the world every year, sometimes lasting for more than a single year. The Bible suggests that 7 years is not out of the question.(See Genesis.) The costs are horrible, but it is not likely to be an extinction event.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:04PM
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jmc01

The Mississippi River's lower water levels this year began with the lack of snowfall last winter in MN and WI. This spring and summer has only worsened the situation.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 9:15PM
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esh_ga

I'm reading a book called 'Grassland' by Richard Manning which is mostly a history of the US grasslands since Europeans came here. The author says absolutely there is a cycle of periodic droughts. The native vegetation (the grasslands) was well adapted to it with long, extensive root systems. Once Europeans came along and tore up the grasslands to plant crops, they discovered (but never learned from it) that farming destroyed the natural checks and balances that kept everything in balance. Add drought to lack of soil-holding plants and you get the dust bowl disaster of the early 20th century.

But anyway, yes, droughts happen about twice a century at least in that area.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 10:24PM
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ohiomom

I wonder what a more complete record would suggest. Four major droughts doesn't seem enough to establish a really complete picture but it does seem it is not unusual.

I found this to be an interesting read, was hard to really find anything else on past droughts considering we did not keep records until the late 1800's. Apparently there have been mega droughts in the past. Last year the Mississippi was flood level I believe.

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   August 17, 2012 at 11:39PM
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dicot

Found this USGS page, PacNW and Appalachians rivers with the most rain, Plains are dry.

Here is a link that might be useful: USGS streamflow July data

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 1:53AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Ohiomom, The Platte River is notorious for going from flood to disappearing entirely. The written records go back to the first settlers in the area. Indians told of it and the geological record is plain. Sometimes it happens in the same year, sometimes flooding then disappearing in a matter of weeks. The water comes from a huge geographic area. If it is raining 200 miles away, the Platte can flood.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 2:44AM
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sleeplessinftwayne(z4-5 IND)

Sorry, I was away from the computer and the cat danced on the keyboard and hit enter.

Early reports were to be found in journals and letters from explorers and early settlers. The Platte was a major resource for cattle being moved to different areas for pasturage and sale so areas that retained water most frequently were major stop-offs. Flooding,when it happened was rapid and wide spread. One comment I heard when I was in that area was the Platte was either ankle deep or "Oh, S#$t!" deep.

I grew up 2 blocks from the convergence of the Ohio and Guyandotte rivers and was fascinated by the waters ebb and flow. Flooding was an amazing process to watch until the gates were closed, but I never got to see the results of a major drought. The Mississippi River is a different story because of the geological properties that are so different from the Ohio River Valley and the force of spring flooding. The Mississippi, without constant human intervention is capable of changing it's bed in wildly different configurations and directions. There have been many, many different riverbeds for the Mississippi over relatively short periods of time that can be miles from the last location.

Isn't that amazing to think about?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 4:58AM
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jodik_gw

The short term changes aside, I believe that many of us older folk would say that there's been a marked difference in average climate and weather patterns within the past half century, for certain... and yes, the twain are different, though both are still tied together at some point.

This is the first winter past I can recall less snow than required shoveling and no insulating blanket for plant roots, the first time creeks and rivers have run to this point of dryness, a noticeable change in tap water due to lowering of the local aquifer, watering restrictions being placed upon local communities. Burn bans going into effect due to dryness, etc.

Many local, indigenous plain type plant materials have incredibly long tap roots, and it's very noticeable what's native and what's not.

Many smaller generational farms have been practicing soil and other forms of conservation and crop rotation for a very long time, while 'big ag' outfits just come through, running rough shod over everything, and removing natural tree lines that helped, draining natural wetlands to gain a few more acres of tillable soil or buildable land, changing the natural flow of water, and using chemicals and genetically modified seed galore.

Surprise, surprise... Mother Nature doesn't like to be messed with.

While we notice that the more native types of grasses and alfalfas have tap roots that go on forever, the newer hybrid types can't tolerate the lack of rains and heat of the sun. And even though autumn is quite a way off in my area, the natural instinct of many plants is to shed the parts they cannot support and hope for moisture to salvage them.

We recently received about an inch or two of rain, but it's not nearly enough to replenish what's needed.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 6:46AM
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pnbrown

It might be more accurate, if we are going anthropomorphize "Mother Nature" to say that she flat out doesn't care what we do.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 6:54AM
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ohiomom

The fact that these things have happened in the past could very well be true and probably did.

From the link:Sparse paleoclimate data suggest that four megadroughts affected a wide area of the Great Plains and the Western and Southwestern United States between the 1st and 13th centuries. These megadroughts appear to be century-scale features that were centered around A.D. 300, 775, 850, and 1150 (Woodhouse and Overpeck, 1998). These megadroughts would have clearly reduced flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

I am sure the population then was affected by the mega droughts, and now we have a population that is so much greater that migrating in tribes to "greener lands" is a bit more difficult.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:07AM
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david52_gw

For what its worth, Colorado is the headwaters of the Platte, Arkansas, Colorado, and Rio Grande.

And has the highest concentration of water lawyers in the world. They form their own soft ball leagues.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:15AM
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