What Caused the Dust Bowl?

6 June 2016

The early 1900’s were a time of turmoil for farmers in the United States, especially in the Great Plains region. After the end of World War I, overproduction by farmers resulted in low prices for crops. When farmers first came to the Midwest, they farmed as much wheat as they could because of the high prices and demand. Of the ninety-seven acres, almost thirty-two million acres were being cultivated. The farmers were careless in their planting of the crop, caring only about profit, and they started plowing grasslands that were not made for planting. Because of their constant plowing year after year and the lack of rainfall, the soil was quickly losing its fertility. With unfertile, dry land, the wheat crop started dying, and then blowing away with wind. Due to the improper farming, along with a long drought, dust storms made life in the Dust Bowl very burdensome.

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During the 1930’s, the Great Plains was plagued with a drought, a long period of dryness, which brought demise to many of the farmers in the region. This horrible drought started in 1930, a year that saw heavy rains in a very short time, which cause flooding in many areas of the Oklahoma Panhandle. The year continued to with horrible blizzards in the winter and a drought into the late summer. Many of the farms in the Great Plains, losing most of the crop, were greatly affected by the first droughts of the 1930’s. The months of July and August saw about a forty-percent decrease of precipitation compared to previous years. From 1934 to 1936, A record drought hit the southwestern region. In 1934 the temperature was excruciatingly hot, causing many to die as a result of the heat. 1935 was a year where rainfall was very, very scarce. The heat began to rise at fast rates in the summer of 1936, with many days reaching above 120 degrees.

The drought, along with the dust storms, were major reasons for poor farming in the Great Plains during the early to mid-1930s. Because of the drought, the ground became very dry in the Great Plains. This area, known as the Dust Bowl, was a region of horrible dust storms during most of the 1930’s. The storms accompanied the drought and intensified the problems of the farmers. With the drought, many fields were not in a situation to grow crops. Since the fields were so dry, the topsoil would easily blow away with the passing wind. In 1932 many fields were starting to be brutally damaged by the dust. The Oklahoma Panhandle was hit for twenty-two straight days of dust storms, which created drifts everywhere. This flying dirt killed off much of the crops. In a one-year span 139 days were considered to have had dust storms.

Even though the dirt storms were less common in 1934, it was the year in which national attention was gained for the region because of the extreme heat. Also in 1934, approximately 350 million tons of soil was lost in just one storm. The following year was a time of large, powerful dust storms. During the month of May in 1935, a storm known as “Black Sunday” created winds up to sixty miles per hour and left many farms ruined.

The storms were normality by 1935, and extreme weather was a common characteristic. The number of storms began to rise again in 1936, and the temperatures became scorching. But by the end of 1936, rain started to fall once again; however, the droughts soon returned and forced many farmers to leave their fields and to move west. By 1938 there was mixture of snow and dirt that reached blizzard like sizes, which were call “snusters.” These storms caused a great amount of destruction to the farms and sorrow to the farmers. With farms in horrible conditions, farmers in the Dust Bowl found farming a very difficult task. President Roosevelt and his New Deal tried to ease the pains of the farmers.

The Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) was formed to help out the farmers in their time of need. It paid farmers not to farm parts of their land to get prices back up. The Supreme Court ruled the AAA unconstitutional in 1936. Congress responded by passing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act of 1936, which paid farmers to plant “soil-conserving” crops such as soybeans, or they could leave their land fallow. The AAA helped to lift the burden put on many farmers during the dirty 1930’s, but the almost every farmer suffered greatly due to the drought, their farming, and dust storms.

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