A strong cold front clashing with record warmth over the central and eastern part of the US inflamed deadly storms across the Midwest and the Tennessee Valley on Friday.
The untold destruction affected a large area from eastern Texas to western Ohio. The most heavily impacted zones included northeast Arkansas, southwest Missouri, southern Illinois and western Tennessee and Kentucky. Dozens have been confirmed dead, and the death toll is likely to rise further.
Strong tornadoes, wind gusts, and large hail damaged commercial and residential structures. Much of the region’s agricultural production was spared, since many of the crops such as soybeans, corn, and cotton, have already been harvested for the season. But storage facilities may have been damaged following the storm’s path of devastation, along with poultry facilities.
An unparalleled number of climate events over the past few years has brought climate risk into considerable focus. The inextricable relationship between agriculture and climate risk is far-reaching as evidenced by such climate related disasters as the 2020 Midwestern derecho, West Coast wildfires, China typhoons, unexpected frost around the globe, hurricanes, and pest infestations brought on by drought conditions.
2021 ends with a La Niña cycle again sowing chaos in major agricultural production centers, and raises concerns about the world’s ability to replenish depleted global supplies of several major commodities, including corn, wheat, and vegetable oils.
After consecutive years of global climate “anomalies" and lower than expected crop production, it seems prudent to reinforce preparations in 2022 and beyond to manage these new climate and production norms and the increasingly frequent climate events that will develop from here on.
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