The flash drought brought misery, but did it change minds on climate change?

The flash drought brought misery, but did it change minds on climate change?

News Type: State, Regional Source: High Country News
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I walk in the front door of Byron Carter’s house as others are entering in the back, and Koda the dog can’t decide which way to direct her barking. I’m in Divide County, North Dakota, but borders seem a little meaningless here. Last summer’s drought, which was calamitous for Byron and the other farmers and ranchers now filing into his kitchen, leaked over into Canada, Divide’s border to the north, and Montana, to the west. By April of this year, they’re on the cusp of a new season, and Byron has gathered his neighbors — defined as anyone living within a 30-mile radius in this sparsely populated corner of the state — so we can talk about drought and climate change.

Drought is an especially wily adversary. As an officer of the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services told me recently, ”You can’t put up a sandbag wall to stop a drought.”

In Divide County, agricultural producers are especially vulnerable to the effects of drought, since they depend on dryland methods. Dryland farmers use no irrigation. Instead, they rely wholly on rain: to initiate the lush growth of little bluestem and other pastureland grasses that will sustain their herds through the summer, and to secure the hay harvest that will get the herd through the winter. Not to mention the rain they need for their wheat, barley and pea cash crops.