Monday, November 12, 2012

Ken Burns To Chronicle The Dust Bowl

Film maker Ken Burns, known for his historical accounts of baseball and the Civil War that ran on PBS countless times over the years, has been working on a historical account of the Dust Bowl, the 1930's drought that ravaged the Plains.  PBS will be airing the four hour documentary film over two nights, starting next Sunday night at 8 PM.

Watch The Dust Bowl Preview on PBS. See more from The Dust Bowl.
The Dust Bowl wasn't just a localized or regionalized impact to the Plains and Midwest. Burns highlights how some of the dust storms that fired up across the Plains in the 30's also spread east and impacted New York, Washington, and even out into the Atlantic Ocean in a second preview clip below.


The Dust Bowl's causes, generally climatic due to drought in the Plains in the 1930's combined with a poor management of agriculture in these areas, lead to a mass migration of farmers from the Southern Plains to other parts of the country (think "Grapes of Wrath" from your high school reading).

Drought has been a big issue in the Plains and Midwest this year, with a large swath of real estate from Minnesota and the Dakotas south to Texas under extreme and exceptional drought conditions not unlike those felt in the 1930's.

In fact, Wyoming and Nebraska have had their driest years in modern record this year so far.  Conditions in many respects are similar to those in the 1930's based solely on what's going on this year but the 1930's featured a multiple year dry spell.  For comparison, while this year is 16th driest nationally, the January-October period of 1934 was the driest on record nationally and 1936 was the 15th driest on record.   This year's dry spell, while impressive, lacks the year to year persistence of the 1930's.


However, modern agriculture and a better understanding of the Plains' soil and climate may very well go a long way to prevent a full blown repeat of the magnitude of dust storms that ravaged the country nearly eighty years ago.  There may certainly be dust storms on a regionalized basis but probably not as widespread to the point where dust blows into New York and Washington.