AL climatologist explains how drought impacts air quality, store prices

AL climatologist explains how drought impacts air quality, store prices

(WTVM) - Alabama's top expert on climate says we are experiencing the worst short term drought in 122 years of record-keeping.

State climatologist Dr. John Christy with the National Space Science and Technology Center said this historic, short-term drought began the first of September.

Less than three months in, we are already seeing it negatively impact air quality, marine and animal life, as well as prices we see at the grocery store.

Wildfires are perhaps the most obvious impact Alabama's short term drought. This month alone, the Forestry Commission recorded more than 1,000 wildfires, leading to a statewide burn ban.

"Low vegetation has dried out completely the ground is dry fires can spread quickly and we have the wind so that doesn't help," Dr. Christy said. "And unfortunately we get also calm periods where the smoke gets in the air and just stays there and causes terrible respiratory problems for people sensitive to that this is the worst time to have a wild fire."

Dr. Christy says Alabama's ecosystem is being impacted, posing dangers for marine life and animals.

"Wildlife of course depends on water and when water is scare that is going to be a tremendous amount of stress," Dr. Christy said.

Most farmers with vegetables and fruit crops are doing well, but the cattle industry is taking a hit.

This will lead to lower meat prices for consumers in the short term but higher prices next year.

"Beef prices will be low because so many cattle are being sold on the market now because there was no water to grow hay and pastureland this fall, so farmers will likely have to sell cattle," Dr. Christy said. "Next spring or so normal cattle sales, well there won't be any cattle sales so prices will probably go up."

Dr. Christy says drought recovery will only come when we start seeing at least an inch or more of rain a week.

However, there's no guarantee that could happen, quickly turning a short-term drought into a long term drought, lasting six months or longer.

"This is a severe short-term drought and if it doesn't rain and there are indications for this winter we might not get the necessary rain we need, it will take us to a long-term drought and a bad one at that," Dr. Christy said.

Of course, the burn ban remains in place for the Chattahoochee Valley area.

While Dr. Christy says water restrictions can help ease water shortages during spring and summer, because this is a fall-winter drought, restrictions don't have as great of an impact because people aren't typically watering their lawns and flowers.

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