Minnesota, July, 2021: Drier and Deeper in Drought

(Drought conditions in Minnesota. (July 6, 2021))

My part of Stearns County, Minnesota, had moderate drought back in mid-June. This week’s map promoted us to severe drought.

Maybe the map’s drought data included the 38 hundredths of an inch we got on Tuesday. But I doubt it.

Drought.gov’s map is comparatively simple, but it reflects a very complex set of data. So I figure the folks updating it need time. Or, more likely, folks and software need time.

At any rate, this has been a dry summer. That’s not good for crops, which isn’t good for farmers. And since my part of Minnesota is largely rural, anything that affects crops affects all of us. Directly or indirectly.1

Rain and Regional Rivers

Rain in the Upper Midwest. For one day. (July 6, 2021))
(From National Weather Service, used w/o permission.)
(Tuesday morning rain: welcome, if incomplete, drought relief. (July 6, 2021))

That said, Tuesday’s rain was welcome. And a nearly all-day affair, so the soil had time to absorb the water. Although that’s not so much of an issue around Sauk Centre. That seems likely, at least.

Our soil’s sandy by my standards. I grew up in the Red River Valley. Red River of the North that is. The Red River that runs, by our reckoning, from where the Bois de Sioux and Otter Tail rivers join northward to Lake Winnipeg.2

My Red River Valley isn’t so much a valley, as a huge lakebed. Soil there is the sort that gets packaged and marketed as potting soil in some parts of my country.

Not that potting soil is an export product. And I’m drifting off-topic.

Trends, Terror and Assumptions

Rain in the Upper Midwest. For one day. (July 6, 2021))
(From National Weather Service, used w/o permission.)
(“Annual average temperature for the contiguous United States from 1895-2016. … The linear trend of 1.45°F per century over the period is represented by a straight blue line.”
“Mapping U.S. climate trends,” Jake Crouch, Climate.gov (December 21, 2017))

My hat’s off to Jake Crouch. Instead of drawing a straight line from 1895 to 2016 on that annual average temperature graph, and telling us that pretty soon Earth’s oceans will boil; he talked about statistics and February.3

Basically, he — as I see it — tried explaining that climate is complicated. And changes.

That’s not particularly exciting, so I’ll have fun with that 1895-2016 graph and unwarranted assumptions.

Perils Abound! The Dust Bowl, a Coming Ice Age and Global Climate Angst

Doing a linear trend from 1911 to 1933, I’d get a really steep linear trend: continental warming to delight the hearts of tabloid editors and assorted activists.

More seriously, I’m not happy that the 1972-2016 linear trend is almost as steep.

If I accept the conventional ‘we learn nothing from history’ attitude, then I could assume that we’ve got a Mega-Dust-Bowl Apocalypse coming next year. Or maybe the year after.

Maybe so, or maybe not.

I’m guessing “not,” since I’ve noticed that we do learn. Some of us.

On the ‘down’ side, current average temperatures are higher than in the 1930s.

That’s significant, assuming that recent temperature readings came from close analogs to the 1930s weather station.

On the other hand, if 1930s readings were from thermometers a mile or so out on the prairie, while recent data came from thermometers at the same location: which is now a paved parking lot — that’s another topic. Almost.

An ‘up’ side is that we have learned. Farmers have, at any rate.

These days, for example, plowing across slopes is standard practice.4 In places I’ve seen, at any rate. That, and leaving plowed soil in biggish chunks, helps keep soil from washing or blowing away: come drought or downpour.

Beware the Coming Ice Age!

Global warming protestors in penguin suits: Vienna. (2017) via CNN, used w/o permission.Then there’s the 1953-1968 linear trend.

That inspired “global cooling” headlines, ‘coming ice age’ documentaries and science fiction tales.

The latter were of more interest to science nerds like me, I strongly suspect.

In any case, by 1970 we had juicier apocalyptic visions to embrace.

“…in ten years all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish….”
(Paul Ehrlich, on first Earth Day, (1970))

Somewhere between the mid-1970s and early 21st century, global warming worked its way to top-of-the charts for scary catchphrases. I hadn’t been tracking such things, and so missed when “climate change” came into vogue.

Maybe the current crop of “global warming” headlines in my news feeds heralds a return to traditional doomsday scenarios. Or maybe not.

Now, that post-1972 warming trend just simply must have been caused by someone.

Or, better yet, something big and familiar.

Starbucks, the Coming Shopocalypse and/or Global Warming

(From Starbucks, via AP/KOMONews.com, used w/o permission.)

It’s been five and a half years since Starbucks and the War on Christmas was an item.

Basically, the idea was that Christians were miffed that Starbucks didn’t take their frangible feelings into account when planning the chain’s holiday marketing.

Make that some Christians. I didn’t learn about the alleged crisis until I saw ‘red cup controversy’ headlines.

Anyway, casting Christians as easily-offended twits isn’t hard.

Procter & Gamble Panic

Proctor and Gamble's pre-1980s logo, before the Revelation 12:1 'satanic' rumors.Take when Procter & Gamble changed their logo, for example, back in the 1980s.

News media had a field day, discussing a rumor that the P&G logo was Satanic. And suggesting that Christians, aghast at Revelation 12:1 mockery and the dread number 666, were avoiding P&G in droves.5

I’m guessing that some Christians really were upset.

Maybe because someone drew a line between the logo’s 13 stars and Revelation 12:1. That’s the bit that mentions “…a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”

And aimed their outrage at P&G instead of the Catholic Church.

The alleged subliminal “666” in the old P&G logo’s whiskers didn’t help. Now that I’ve mentioned it, you can probably see it in the whisker curlicues.

I figure that Revelation 12:1 is a reasonably clear reference to Genesis 37:9: Joseph’s dream, where “the sun and the moon and eleven stars” bow to Joseph. And that’s yet another topic.

“Reverend Billy” and the Shopocalypse

And sometime Christian crackpots are simply too good to be true.

Like when Reverend Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping marched on Starbucks.

When Reverend Billy isn’t dressed up like a 1980s televangelist with a dash of 1960s campus activist, he’s William Talen: from a Dutch Calvinist family in Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.6

They moved around a bit, I gather.

How much of his Reverend Billy act is performance art, and how much stems from a sincere desire to save souls from the — I am not making this up — Shopocalypse? I have no idea.

I’m drifting off-topic. Again.

Where was I? Drought, rain, statistics, linear trends and Starbucks. Right.

After That, But Not Necessarily Because of That

I pegged the current warming trend’s start as 1972. That’s a start, but I’m not through.

Scaring folks with global warming isn’t enough. If I’m going to get attention, I need to blame the crisis on someone or something.

Preferably something big and not beloved by my target audience.

My culture’s traditional ‘Biblical’ approach is to select snippets from Revelation and maybe some of the more metaphorical Old Testament books.

I’m not sure how I’d fit Revelation 12, say, into anti-Starbucks screed.

But never mind that. I’m taking a more up-t0-date “scientific” approach.

What started around 1972, and is still on my culture’s radar?

After sedulous and incisive research — checking out two ‘this year in history’ pages on Wikipedia — I had my answer: Starbucks!

It’s obvious!!

The first Starbucks opened in 1971, in Seattle.

Seattle, Washington, is the western United States.

There’s a dreadful drought in progress in the western United States.

The Starbucks chain has been growing ever since 1971.7

America’s average temperature has been rising ever since 1972.


Considering how easily crackpot notions get traction, I’d better make this disclaimer: I AM MAKING THIS UP. Seriously, I do not think that Starbucks causes global warming.

My intent was to blow off a little steam. And maybe suggest that taking a deep breath and thinking is often a good idea.

Finally, my usual review of flamingly-obvious points. Or stuff I think should be obvious.

Making Sense

Detail, Albrecht Durer's 'The Revelation of St John: 12.' (1497-1498 )I’m a very emotional man. That’s partly why I don’t trust my feelings, and that’s yet again another topic.

Letting emotions run my life is an option. A daft option, but an option nonetheless. I’ve got free will. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1704-1707, 1730-1738, 1853, 2339)

Emotions are part of being human. (Catechism, 1762-1770)

Being human, I’m a creature made of spirit and the stuff of this world, able to think — and decide whether I try to make sense, or not. (Genesis 1:27, 2:7; Catechism, 355-373, 1705-1706)

Sometimes folks don’t make sense. Making bad decisions, and experiencing their consequences, is possible. And all too common.

“…The Whole Law and the Prophets….”

Detail, Thomas Cole's 'The Journey of Life - Youth.' (1840)I won’t heap verbal abuse on folks who imply that (all) Christians were angry about red coffee cups, or on folks who followed Reverend Billy’s lead. That’s because I take our Lord seriously.

“‘Teacher, ‘which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
“He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
“This is the greatest and the first commandment.
“The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
“The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'”
(Matthew 22:36-40)

Loving God wasn’t a new idea.

“‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
“Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.
“Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
“Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
“Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.”
(Deuteronomy 6:4-8)

A set of tefillinNeither was loving neighbors. That’s covered in Leviticus 19:13-18.

The idea that everybody is my neighbor is, I think, implicit Psalms 146:9Psalms 146:9, and Malachi 3:5: “The LORD protects the stranger” and all that.

There’s taking metaphor literally, too. Which reminds me, I haven’t talked about tefillin in a long time. And that’s still another topic.

On the other hand, I have talked climate, being human and vaguely-related topics:

1 Minnesota and my town:

2 A river and a little rain:

3 Statistics, trends and straight lines:

4 The 1930s drought and farming:

5 Procter & Gamble, pareidolia and maybe paranoia:

6 I am not making this up:

7 A highly successful coffeehouse chain:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to Minnesota, July, 2021: Drier and Deeper in Drought

  1. irishbrigid says:

    Missing Period: “that’s another topic. Almost”

    The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Thanks for taking time to comment!