Environment Forum

Even everyday weather could pack a $485 billion punch

No question about it: this has been a wild weather year so far in the United States, with record rains, droughts, wildfires and tornadoes. But a new study indicates that even routine weather events like rainstorms and cooler-than-normal days could pack a huge annual economic wallop.

Weather’s effect on all sectors of the U.S. economy may total $485 billion a year, as much as 3.4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, according to research published in the current Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. It is the first study to apply qualitative economic analysis to estimate the U.S. economy’s weather sensitivity.

Mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with routine variations taking a toll of 14 percent on mining each year — possibly because of changing demands for oil, gas and coal — and farming feeling a 12 percent impact, conceivably because temperature and precipitation affect many crops, the study said.

Other weather-sensitive U.S. sectors include manufacturing (8 percent); finance, insurance and retail (8 percent), and utilities (7 percent). By contrast, wholesale and retail trade had a weather sensitivity of 2 percent, and the service sector felt a 3 percent impact from routine weather variations. The impacts stretch across every U.S. state, researchers found.

“It’s clear that our economy isn’t weatherproof,” said the study’s lead author, Jeffrey Lazo, an economist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.

Food for thought

USA/Feeling hungry? Maybe that’s because of all the news, from around the world, about food today — how much people produce, how much more they need, how much it’s going to cost, how much of an effect it will have on climate change, and vice versa.

Starting in Washington, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported that American stockpiles of corn and soybeans will shrink to surprisingly low levels this year, which sent grain prices soaring to 30-month highs. Bad weather in places like Australia and rising world demand led by China are partly responsible for cutting crop inventories around the globe.

There’s actually encouraging news on the food front from south Sudan, where citizens are voting now to become an independent nation. While much of Africa is under intense pressure to provide food for its people, the U.N. World Food Programme says south Sudan could become a food exporter and end its chronic food dependency within a decade. But immediately after the vote, this area is likely to need more food aid, according to the U.N.

from Route to Recovery:

Water rights make El Centro an oasis


If you head east to El Centro from San Diego, Interstate 8 takes you through arid scenery, climbing to 4,000 feet through barren mountains so fast that your ears pop. Then comes the oasis.

As you head down rapidly out of the mountains once more toward El Centro you hit a sign that tells you that you have reached sea level. Green fields and palm trees, stacks of hay drying in the fierce sun -- 90 degrees Fahrenheit even in November -- surrounded on all sides by rocky hills and the desert.

We knew before coming here that this was an agricultural region, but the lush greenery amid such a scorched landscape took us by surprise. This is where much of America's lettuce, spinach and other vegetables come from in the winter. There are also large cattle feed lots here too, which launch a frontal assault on your olfactory system long before you see them.

Bloggers sound off on GMO foods

Kenyan blogger Juliana Rotich is the editor of Green Global Voices, which monitors citizen media in the developing world, and is a regular contributor to this page. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

Genetically Modified foods have been a concern for many environment bloggers in South Africa and other parts of Africa. On this post we check in a handful of bloggers who’ve recently written about genetically modified (GMO) foods and seed.

UrbanSprout points to a report in Mail Online article that indicates lower fertility in mice fed on GM (Genetically Modified) maize.