(News & Editorial / Drought, Part 2 – Beyond 2012)
2012 US Drought & The Four Corners region of the west: Depopulated at least once ca 1250AD, later the 1930s “Dust Bowl”.
A. The Price Of Corn Hits A Record High As A Global Food Crisis Looms
19 July 2012, The Economic Collapse,
Pasted from: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-price-of-corn-hits-a-record-high-as-a-global-food-crisis-looms
Are you ready for the next major global food crisis? The price of corn hit an all-time record high on Thursday. So did the price of soybeans. The price of corn is up about 50 percent since the middle of last month, and the price of wheat has risen by about 50 percent over the past five weeks. On Thursday, corn for September delivery reached $8.166 per bushel, and many analysts believe that it could hit $10 a bushel before this crisis is over. The worst drought in the United States in more than 50 years is projected to continue well into August, and more than 1,300 counties in the United States have been declared to be official natural disaster areas. So how is this crisis going to affect the average person on the street? Well, most Americans and most Europeans are going to notice their grocery bills go up significantly over the coming months. That will not be pleasant. But in other areas of the world this crisis could mean the difference between life and death for some people. You see, half of all global corn exports come from the United States. So what happens if the U.S. does not have any corn to export? About a billion people around the world live on the edge of starvation, and today the Financial Times ran a front page story with the following headline: “World braced for new food crisis”. Millions upon millions of families in poor countries are barely able to feed themselves right now. So what happens if the price of the food that they buy goes up dramatically?
You may not think that you eat much corn, but the truth is that it is in most of the things that we buy at the grocery store. In fact, corn is found in about 74 percent of the products we buy in the supermarket and it is used in more than 3,500 ways.
Americans consume approximately one-third of all the corn grown in the world each year, and we export massive amounts of corn to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, thanks to the drought of 2012 farmers are watching their corn die right in front of their eyes all over the United States.
The following is from a Washington Post article that was posted on Thursday….
Nearly 40 percent of the corn crop was in poor-to-very-poor condition as of Sunday, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. That compared with just 11 percent a year ago.
“The crop, if you look going south from Illinois and Indiana, is damaged and a lot of it is damaged hopelessly and beyond repair now,” said Sterling Smith, a Citibank Institutional Client Group vice president who specializes in commodities.
About 30 percent of the soybean crop was in poor-to-very-poor condition, which compared with 10 percent a year ago.
Conditions for both crops are expected to worsen in Monday’s agriculture agency report.
More than half of the country is experiencing drought conditions right now, and this is devastating both ranchers and farmers. Right now, ranchers all over the western United States are slaughtering their herds early as feed prices rise. It is being projected that the price of meat will rise substantially later this year.
The following is from a recent MSNBC article….
For example, you may want to make room in your freezer for meat because prices for beef and pork are expected to drop in the next few months as farmers slaughter herds to deal with the high cost of grains that are used as livestock feed, said Shawn Hackett of the agricultural commodities firm Hackett Financial Advisors in Boynton Beach, Fla. But, he added, everything from milk to salad dressing is going to cost more in the near term, and eventually the meat deals will evaporate as demand outstrips supply.
So there may be some deals on meat in the short-term as all of these animals are slaughtered, but in the long-term we can expect prices to go up quite a bit.
But it isn’t as if food is not already expensive enough. The price of food rose much faster than the overall rate of inflation last year.
As I wrote about yesterday, American families found their grocery budgets stretched very thin during 2011. Just check out these food inflation rates from last year….
- Beef: +10.2%
- Pork: +8.5%
- Fish: +7.1%
- Eggs: +9.2%
- Dairy: +6.8%
- Oils and Fats: +9.3%
If prices rose that fast last year, what will those statistics look like at the end of this year if this drought continues?
Sadly, America is not alone. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. is not the only place that is having problems with crops right now….
Dry weather in the U.S., as well as the Black Sea region; a poor start to the Indian monsoon and the possibility of emerging El Nino conditions suggest agricultural products may rally, Barclays said in a report e-mailed yesterday.
And all of this is very bad news for a world that is really struggling to feed itself.
In many countries around the globe, the poor spend up to 75 percent of their incomes on food. Just a 10 percent increase in the price of basic food staples can be absolutely devastating for impoverished families that are living right on the edge.
You may not have ever known what it is like to wonder where your next meal is going to come from, but in many areas around the world that is a daily reality for many families.
Just check out what is happening in Yemen….
Crying and staring at his distended belly, 6-year-old Warood cannot walk on his spindly legs.
“We become so familiar with sickness,” said his mother, who according to social norms here does not give her name to outsiders.
She says she has watched two of her children die. “I have to decide: Do I buy rice or medicine?”
The United Nations estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life-threatening levels of malnutrition. In the Middle East’s poorest country hunger has doubled since 2009. More than 10 million people — 44% of the population — do not have enough food to eat, according to the United Nation’s World Food Program.
In the United States, we aren’t going to see starvation even if nearly the entire corn crop fails. Our grocery bills might be more painful, but there is still going to be plenty of food for everyone.
In other areas of the world, a bad year for global crops can mean the difference between life and death.
Sadly, it is being projected that the current drought in the United States will last well into August at least.
But even when this current drought ends, our problems will not be over. The truth is that we are facing a very severe long-term water crisis in the western United States.
Just check out the following facts from foodandwaterwatch.org….
– California has a 20-year supply of freshwater left
– New Mexico has only a ten-year supply of freshwater left
– The U.S. interior west is probably the driest it has been in 500 years, according to the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Geological Survey
– Lake Mead, the vast reservoir of the Colorado River, has a 50 percent chance of running dry by 2021
The 1,450 mile long Colorado River is probably the most important body of water in the southwestern United States.
Unfortunately, the Colorado River is rapidly dying.
The following is from a recent article by Jonathan Waterman about how the once might Colorado River is running dry…
Fifty miles from the sea, 1.5 miles south of the Mexican border, I saw a river evaporate into a scum of phosphates and discarded water bottles. This dirty water sent me home with feet so badly infected that I couldn’t walk for a week. And a delta once renowned for its wildlife and wetlands is now all but part of the surrounding and parched Sonoran Desert. According to Mexican scientists whom I met with, the river has not flowed to the sea since 1998. If the Endangered Species Act had any teeth in Mexico, we might have a chance to save the giant sea bass (totoaba), clams, the Sea of Cortez shrimp fishery that depends upon freshwater returns, and dozens of bird species.
So let this stand as an open invitation to the former Secretary of the Interior and all water buffalos who insist upon telling us that there is no scarcity of water here or in the Mexican Delta. Leave the sprinklered green lawns outside the Aspen conferences, come with me, and I’ll show you a Colorado River running dry from its headwaters to the sea. It is polluted and compromised by industry and agriculture. It is overallocated, drought stricken, and soon to suffer greatly from population growth. If other leaders in our administration continue the whitewash, the scarcity of knowledge and lack of conservation measures will cripple a western civilization built upon water. “You can either do it in crisis mode,” Pat Mulroy said at this conference, “or you can start educating now.”
People need to wake up because we have some very serious water issues in this country.
In the heartland of America, farmers pump water from a massive underground lake known as the Ogallala Aquifer to irrigate their fields.
The problem is that the Ogallala Aquifer is rapidly being pumped dry.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie” has been permanently drained from the Ogallala Aquifer since 1940.
Once upon a time, the Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of about 240 feet.
Today, the average depth of the Ogallala Aquifer is just 80 feet, and in some parts of Texas the water is totally gone.
Right now, the Ogallala Aquifer is being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute.
Once that water is gone it will not be replaced.
So what will the “breadbasket of America” do then?
Most Americans do not realize this, but we are facing some major, major water problems.
Let us pray that this current drought ends and let us pray that everyone around the world will have enough to eat.
But even if we get through this year okay by some miracle, that doesn’t mean that our problems are over.
B. NASA finds 2011 ninth warmest year on record; GISS team concludes slowdown of warming likely to prove illusory
19 January 2012, Green Car Congress
The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists; nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.
NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, which monitors global surface temperatures on an ongoing basis, released an updated analysis that shows temperatures around the globe in 2011 compared to the average global temperature from the mid-20th century. The average temperature around the globe in 2011 was 0.92 degrees F (0.51 °C) warmer than the mid-20th century baseline.
The global average surface temperature in 2011 was the ninth warmest since 1880, according to NASA scientists. The finding continues a trend in which nine of the 10 warmest years in the modern meteorological record have occurred since the year 2000.
The difference between 2011 and the warmest year in the GISS record (2010) is 0.22 degrees F (0.12 C). Because of the large natural variability of climate, scientists do not expect temperatures to rise consistently year after year. However, they do expect a continuing temperature rise over decades.
2011 was only the ninth warmest year in the GISS analysis of global temperature change, yet nine of the ten warmest years in the instrumental record (since 1880) have occurred in the 21st century. The past year has been cooled by a moderately strong La Nina. The 5-year (60-month) running mean global temperature hints at a slowdown in the global warming rate during the past few years. However, the cool La Nina phase of the cyclically variable Southern Oscillation of tropical temperatures has been dominant in the past three years, and the deepest solar minimum in the period of satellite data occurred over the past half dozen years. We conclude that the slowdown of warming is likely to prove illusory, with more rapid warming appearing over the next few years.
…………………………………………………………………………………………..Hansen et al.
The temperature analysis produced at GISS is compiled from weather data from more than 1,000 meteorological stations around the world, satellite observations of sea surface temperature and Antarctic research station measurements. A publicly available computer program is used to calculate the difference between surface temperature in a given month and the average temperature for the same place during 1951 to 1980. This three-decade period functions as a baseline for the analysis.
[Above; 19 July 2012 U.S. Drought Monitor]
C. June Global Temperatures Fourth Highest On Record
July 20, 2012, ScienceDaily
According to NOAA scientists, the globally averaged temperature for June 2012 marked the fourth warmest June since record keeping began in 1880. The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces was 61.03°F, 1.13°F above the 20th century average [1.13F rise + 59.93 =61.03F, 2012 land and ocean]. June 2012 also marks the 36th consecutive June and 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average….
For the ocean, the June global sea surface temperature was 0.85°F above the 20th century average of 61.5°F, the 10th warmest June on record [0.85F rise + 61.5F average = 62.35F 2012 oceans]. Neutral ocean conditions continued across the equatorial Pacific Ocean during June as sea surface temperatures continued to warm. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is an increased chance that El Niño conditions will emerge beginning in July-September 2012. In addition to influencing seasonal climate outcomes in the United States, El Niño is often, but not always, associated with global temperatures that are higher than temperatures in the neutral and La Niña phases.
D. Grain prices soar as drought impact deepens
10 Aug 2012, Economy Watch, NBC News, By John W. Schoen
Pasted from <http://economywatch.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/08/10/13219551-grain-prices-soar-as-drought-impact-deepens?lite>
The worst American drought in more than half a century is driving up grain prices and deepening worries about global food shortages.
With much of the corn crop already lost, farmers are holding out hope for some weather relief that could help salvage the harvest of soybeans and other. But the latest data from the government Friday showed that the damage to the food supply chain already has been done.
“This is worse than 2008 — we’re in kind of a perfect storm scenario,” said Ana Puchi-Donnelly, senior agricultural commodities trader at London-based Marex Spectron. “We won’t really know until the whole crop is harvested. We’re talking about the worst drought in the last 50 to 70 years in one of the hottest years on record.”
[Above: 9 August 2012 U.S. Drought Monitor.]
[This graphic was made three weeks after the July Drought Monitor graphic shown above, the comparison shows a large expansion in the affected area. The “trickle down” from these images is reduced food production, reduced income for farm communities, higher expenses on US grocery shelves, increased hostilities in the 2nd and 3rd world countries, imminent volatility in global commodity and equity market prices. Mr. Larry]
Shriveling supplies have sent grain prices soaring. Corn futures set an all-time high Friday to levels roughly 50 percent higher than the end of May, before the drought took hold. Soybean prices also jumped this week to more than 25 percent above pre-drought levels.
While those price spikes have yet to work their way through the food chain, American consumers can expect to pay more to put dinner on the table. The overall impact on food prices, however, is expected to relatively small.
“If you’re a family of four on a tight budget, it’s not inconsequential,” Gregory Page, CEO of Cargill, one of the world’s largest food producers, told CNBC. “But to put it in context, it is about $75 per man, woman and child here in the U.S. vs. the levels we saw a year ago.”
The outlook for this year’s harvest has changed dramatically over just a few months. In the spring, U.S. corn farmers planted the most acreage in 75 years and expected a record harvest. Countries that rely on the United States as the world’s largest food exporter were hopeful the yield would replenish depleted global stockpiles.
But those hopes have been dashed as farmers sift through their drought-parched farmlands. The government’s latest estimate of this year’s harvest, released Friday, was even worse than expected. After predicting a bumper crop of nearly 15 billion bushels of corn in June, the USDA Friday predicted a harvest of less than 11 billion bushels, 13 percent below last year’s level.
Expected corn yields were slashed from June’s estimate of 166 bushels per acre to just 123 bushels, some 25 percent below normal. Inventories of soybeans, widely used as livestock feed from India to Indiana, will be the smallest in nine years.
There is little sign of relief in the weather forecast. The severest conditions -– which have already enveloped more than a third of the nation -– continued to spread this week, according to a report Thursday from the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska. July was the hottest month on record, beating the worst month of the Dust Bowl era in 1936. After mild weather allowed farmers to plant earlier than normal this year, modest rainfall in parts of the Midwest this week came too late for much of the crop.
“There will be some improvement; the cooler temperatures certainly will help,” said Andy Karst, a meteorologist for World Weather. “But most of the Midwest has not had enough rain for significant improvement. Crops may stabilize or decline a little more the next couple of weeks.”
Though food inflation in the U.S. so far has been relatively tame, the surge in crop prices is expected to move quickly through the global food chain, pushing up prices of beef, poultry and other processed foods.
Cattle ranchers already are dipping into stockpiles of hay set aside for winter after the drought killed much of the grass forage they typically rely on during the summer months.
“We don’t have much hay, we don’t have much corn, we don’t have much of really anything,” Brett Crosby, a cattle rancher in Cowley, Wyo., told CNBC. “Over half of the pastures in the United States are rated poor to very poor in condition.”
The U.S. crop shortfall comes as the rest of the global supply chain is already under pressure. Hot weather in Russia and too much rain in farmlands in Brazil have lowered crop yields, further straining inventories.
Demand, meanwhile, remains strong in the developing world, even as the global economy slows. The shrunken forecast for this year’s crop has raised concerns that the world could see another repeat of the severe shortfall in 2008 that led to food riots in some countries.
“Supplying countries put on embargoes against exports and we had importing countries that in many cases were buying more than they actually need,” said Page. “The combination of those two actions by governments exacerbated the sense of shortfall and I think accelerated the price increases.”
Page this year’s expected shortfall — between 3 and 4 percent below the long-term trend in production levels — is “manageable, if we make good decisions.”
That effort would require a coordinated global effort by governments to head off potential bottlenecks that produced big food price spikes in 2008. Those moves could include scaling back government subsidies put in place to promote biofuel production, which has diverted corn and soy supplies.
“Several urgent actions must be taken to address the current situation to prevent a potential global food price crisis,” said Shenggen Fan, head of the International Food Policy Research Institute, a think tank funded by the World Bank.
E. Food prices set to soar as worst U.S. drought for half a century forces corn farmers to abandon fields the size of Belgium and Luxembourg
11 August 2012, MailOnline News, by Rob Preece
• Drought has destroyed one-sixth of U.S. expected corn crop
• Soybean harvest expected to be the worst for five years
• Food manufacturers warn they will pass on price rises to consumers
Food prices are expected to surge after the worst drought in the U.S. for half a century destroyed one-sixth of the country’s expected corn crop over the past month.
The hottest July in U.S. history has caused irreparable damage to crops, forcing corn farmers to abandon fields greater in area than Belgium and Luxembourg.
Soybeans, which are used for animal feed and to make vegetable oil, have also been affected, with this harvest likely to be the worst for five years.
[Damaged: The worst drought for half a century in the U.S. has destroyed one-sixth of the country’s expected corn crop.]
The crisis has prompted the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to forecast record-breaking price rises, and some of the world’s largest food manufacturers, including Kraft, Tyson and Nestle, have already indicated that they will pass on the increase to consumers.
USDA now expects 10.8 billion bushels of corn to be produced this year – 2.2billion bushels less than the projection it made last month.
USDA chief economist Joseph Glauber told the Financial Times: ‘We’re going to see very high prices.’
The problem could have far-reaching consequences internationally.
In 2007-08, high food costs led to riots in more than 30 countries, but Jose Graziano da Silva, the director general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, said the current crisis was not as severe.
‘We do not have the demand pressure from China and India as five years ago.’
The situation has worsened since the week ending July 29, when USDA found that 48 per cent of the nation’s corn crop was either poor or very poor.
The department said 47 per cent of the soybean crop was in very poor or poor condition.
They were the worst ratings since the drought of 1988, which cut production by 20 per cent and cost the economy tens of billions of dollars.
With grazing pastures also parched and feed prices at record highs, many ranchers are sending their animals to slaughter early because it is too costly to keep them until full size.
President Barack Obama’s administration has opened up protected US land to help farmers and ranchers and has encouraged crop insurance companies to forgo charging interest.
It has also provided emergency low-interest loans to farmers in 31 states, where disaster areas have been declared due to the drought.
Help for farmers: The US Agriculture Department has unveiled new help for frustrated, cash-strapped farmers and crop insurers have agreed to provide farmers with a 30 day grace period on premiums
Crisis: Disaster areas have been declared in 31 U.S. states after the worst drought for decades.
F. The Mississippi River Is Drying Up
August 14th, 2012, The Economic Collapse
Pasted from: <http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/the-mississippi-river-is-drying-up>
The worst drought in more than 50 years is having a devastating impact on the Mississippi River. The Mississippi has become very thin and very narrow, and if it keeps on dropping there is a very real possibility that all river traffic could get shut down. And considering the fact that approximately 60 percent of our grain, 22 percent of our oil and natural gas, and one-fifth of our coal travel down the Mississippi River, that would be absolutely crippling for our economy. 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.
Most Americans simply do not understand how vitally important the Mississippi River is to all of us. If the Mississippi River continues drying up to the point where commercial travel is no longer possible, it would be an absolutely devastating blow to the U.S. economy.
Unfortunately, vast stretches of the Mississippi are already dangerously low. The following is an excerpt from a transcript of a CNN report that aired on August 14th….
You might think this is some kind of desert just outside of Memphis. It’s not. I’m actually standing on the exposed bottom of the Mississippi River. That’s how dramatic the drought impact is being felt here. Hard to believe, a year ago we were talking about record flooding. Now, they are worried about a new kind of record: a record low. The river was three miles wide here, it’s now down to three tenths of a mile. And that’s causing all kinds of problems. There are some benefits, I mean, take a look over here: new beach front. In fact, some quip that now the Mississippi River has more beaches than the entire state of Florida, which would be funny if it didn’t have an impact on trade.
A lot of stuff we use goes up and down the Mississippi River. We are talking steel, coal, ore, grain. The problem is now a lot of those barges have had to lighten their loads, and even doing that, they are still running aground. There is a real fear that there could be a possibility of closing the Mississippi River. If that happens, well, all that product that used to be carried cheaply by barge is now going to be carried more expensively by truck or train. And guess who is going to pay for all of that.
[August 2012, aerial view of the Mississippi River, exposed mid-channel sand banks, a growing navigation hazard for commercial transport.]
It really is amazing that last year we were talking about historic flooding along the Mississippi and this year we are talking about the Mississippi possibly drying up.
As I mentioned earlier, there are some areas along the river that are already 20 feet below normal levels. The following is from a recent article posted on inquisitr.com….
‘Just outside of Memphis the river is 13 feet below normal depth while the National Weather Service says Vicksburg, Mississippi is 20 feet below normal levels. Overall the Mississippi is 13 feet below normal averages for this time of year.
The drying up river is forcing barge, tugboat and towboat operators to navigate narrower and more shallow spots in the river, slowing their speeds as they pass dangerously close to one another. In some parts of the Mississippi the river is so narrow that one-way traffic is being utilized.‘
A lot of barges have been forced to go with greatly reduced loads so that they will sit higher in the river, and other commercial craft have been forced to stop operating completely.
For example, the Mississippi has dropped so low at this point that the famous American Queen Steamboat can no longer safely navigate the river.
Down south, the Mississippi River has gotten so low that saltwater is actually starting to move upriver. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is fighting hard to keep that contained.
Other waterways in the middle part of the country are in even worse shape.
For example, a 100 mile stretch of the Platte River has already dried up. Millions of fish are dying as rivers and streams all over the country continue to get shallower and warmer as a result of the ongoing drought.
The last time the condition of the Mississippi River was this bad was back in 1988. At that time, a lot of barge traffic was stopped completely and the shipping industry lost approximately a billion dollars.
If a similar thing were to happen now, the consequences could potentially be far worse.
As I wrote about recently, a standstill along the Mississippi would cost the U.S. economy about 300 million dollars a day.
In fact, one towing company that works on the Mississippi says that it has already been losing about $500,000 a month since May.
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….
So here’s the math. If you want to raise the average barge one inch above the water, you’ve got to take off 17-tons of cargo. To raise it a foot, you’re talking 200 tons.
And since, according to the American Waterways Operators, moving cargo by river is $11 a ton cheaper than by train or truck. The more that now has to be moved on land, well, the more the costs go up. Steven Barry says, “And, eventually, the consumer’s gonna pay that price somewhere along the line.”
And considering the fact that we are already facing a potential food crisis due to the drought, the last thing we need is for the Mississippi River to dry up.
So is there any hope on the horizon for the Mississippi?
Unfortunately, things do not look promising.
The fall and the winter are typically drier than the summer is along the Mississippi River. That means that conditions along the river could actually get even worse in the months ahead. The following is from a recent Time Magazine article….
But without significant rainfall, which isn’t in any long-range forecasts, things are likely to get worse. As summer turns to fall, the weather tends to get drier. Lower temperatures generally mean fewer thunderstorms and less rainfall.
“Take away the thunderstorm mechanism and you run into more serious problems,” says Alex Sosnowski, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com. And while droughts tend to be a temporary setback, longer-range forecasts are troublesome. Sosnowski says he is anticipating an El Niño weather pattern next year, which would mean below-normal snowfall and above-average temperatures.
Let us hope and pray that we don’t see another 12 months similar to the 12 months that we have just been through.
The U.S. economy is already in bad enough shape.
We don’t need any more major problems on top of what we are already dealing with.
So what do you think about this? Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….
G. Circa 1250AD: The Anasazi of the Four Corners region: Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado
__1) What happened to these people? [and could this happen to us across the southwest? Mr Larry]
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
The Ancestral Puebloan farmers were relatively successful in the Four Corners area for over a thousand years, but by AD 1300 they had left the entire region. Long-term climate changes that reduced crop yield may have been among the reasons that the Ancestral Puebloans finally moved away from their former homeland.
Tree-ring records and other indicators show that persistent drought and/or shortened frost-free seasons affected this region during several prehistoric periods, including the early 900s, the early 1100s, and the late 1200s. Each of these periods corresponds to shifts in settlement pattern. The last period (late 1200s) witnessed the final, widespread Puebloan migrations out of the Four Corners. Other factors responsible for this exodus may have been deforestation or other kinds of environmental degradation, a growing scarcity of land or other resources, and/or political conflicts related to these problems.
The Ancestral Puebloans may have reached the limit of the natural resources available to them. When crops consistently failed, the people moved to a better location. Archaeologists also see evidence of social changes over time, changes perhaps related to internal pressures or to outside competition from non-Pueblo groups.
In the Dolores Valley, research revealed that people began settling in small villages around AD 500. The settlements were heavily populated between AD 600 and 900 when conditions were most favorable for agriculture. The number of households, hamlets, and villages increased as the population grew.
Environmental conditions began to change around AD 900, as cooler temperatures made farming unreliable. Families began leaving the Dolores area to pursue agriculture and community life at lower elevations nearby. In later centuries the population rebounded and use of the area continued through the 1200s. In southwestern Colorado, some settlement areas persisted for centuries but with internal changes such as a trend toward concentration into larger, fewer villages.
__2) What happened to the Anasazi?
No one really knows. Toward the end of the Anasazi period they built and moved into the famous cliff houses which seem to provide great defensive capabilities, and yet there is little or no evidence of violent conflict. Abruptly around 1300 AD, following several years of severe drought, the Anasazi seem to have abandoned their cliff house dwellings and dispersed. The general consensus seems to be that their agrarian way of life had led to a population explosion, which coupled with poor farming methods had depleted the soil and other resources, just as a drought led to reduced harvests. As a result, the Anasazi left their cliff homes and moved to new territories, probably along the Rio Grande and on the Hopi mesas. Under this interpretation, today’s pueblo Indians are the descendents of the Anasazi.
__3) Riddles of the Anasazi
July 2003, Smithsonian magazine, By David Roberts
Toward the end of the 13th century, something went terribly wrong among the Anasazi. What awful event forced the people to flee their homeland, never to return?
[Pueblo Bonito, Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. The site covers almost two acres and incorporates 650 to 800 rooms. In parts of the village, the tiered structure was four and five stories high. A family may have inhabited 3 to 4 rooms, with many small interior spaces being used for storage. There was generally no outside access to the room blocks other than from the central courtyard. The total population of Pueblo Bonito was probably around 1,200 people at its height. Surrounding the pueblo were a number of smaller dwellings and structures. Numerous communities looked to Chaco Canyon for political and religious guidance.]
…What drove the Anasazi to retreat to the cliffs and fortified villages? And, later, what precipitated the exodus? For a long time, experts focused on environmental explanations. Using data from tree rings, researchers know that a terrible drought seized the Southwest from 1276 to 1299; it is possible that in certain areas there was virtually no rain at all during those 23 years. In addition, the Anasazi people may have nearly deforested the region, chopping down trees for roof beams and firewood. But environmental problems don’t explain everything. Throughout the centuries, the Anasazi weathered comparable crises—a longer and more severe drought, for example, from 1130 to 1180—without heading for the cliffs or abandoning their lands.
Another theory, put forward by early explorers, speculated that nomadic raiders may have driven the Anasazi out of their homeland. But, says Lipe, “There’s simply no evidence of nomadic tribes in this area in the 13th century. This is one of the most thoroughly investigated regions in the world. If there were enough nomads to drive out tens of thousands of people, surely the invaders would have left plenty of archaeological evidence.”