KANSAS CITY — Regional droughts on planet earth are a yearly phenomenon. Some drought years are bigger than others, and the severity of drought is directly proportional to whether it impacts you and how many of your friends. Earth is a big enough planet in which weather adversity in one part of the world can have a huge impact while other areas usually are experiencing much improved weather and/or possibly too much moisture. How much longer can this game of Russian roulette continue before several of the world’s most important food producers end up in drought together? The potential disaster that looms is a great concern, and today’s world water shortages only exacerbate the potential situation.

A series of serious droughts occurred in 2007-08 that resulted in reduced food supply in portions of North America, eastern Asia, Southeast Asia, Australia and parts of South America. Most of the droughts at that time did not impact each of the listed regions of the world at the same time, but enough production cut occurred to lead to the first modern day grain and oilseed supply shortage. The world muddled its way through that event mostly unscathed, but what about the future? Will we be lucky enough to get along with limited food stocks?

A similar bout of multiple droughts occurred in 2020-23 impacting Canada, Mexico, Argentina, southern Brazil and Europe as well as North Africa. Food supply has been rated at dangerously low levels recently, but just like in 2007-08 the world managed to escape a global crisis as the weather broke at just the right time to bolster production in areas that matter most to the world supply of grain and oilseeds.

Recently a three-month drought in the United States broke down, ending what seemed like a tailspin in potential corn production across the Midwest. The rain event was perfectly timed so that the bulk of corn pollination would occur with better soil moisture and rainfall that was absent early in the growing season hurting production potential. The US rain event also came in time to induce aggressive soybean growth and development that was virtually on hold for several weeks prior to the rain event because of dryness.

The break in US drought was absolutely necessary because of drought in Canada’s Prairies (now in its seventh year), drought in Mexico, drought in Argentina, lingering dryness in Europe and developing dryness in Inner Mongolia. Sometimes it is not just a current lack of rainfall that contributes to the possible food shortage, but to a limited water supply as well. Some of the world’s most important grain production comes from arid or semiarid areas that are heavily irrigated, and without a good water source production would not be possible.

Droughts like those listed above are significant events on their own, but when considering a simultaneous low water supply in arid or semi-arid areas, one has to see the potential lost production problem that lurks just like the bullet in a single chamber of a gun that is spun in a game of Russian roulette. In this case of Russian roulette we are not just playing with a single life, but rather huge portions of the world’s population. How much longer can we manage to get around the bigger droughts unscathed? There are many places on earth that cannot raise enough food to feed the people who live there. Feeding the hungry always has been a challenge, though world food stocks usually have been sufficient to pass around the surplus and feed to those who are in need.

Water shortages of significance are present in many areas around the world today. Western Canada, far eastern Canada, the southwestern US Plains into Mexico, northern Brazil, most of Argentina, a huge part of Europe, Russia’s New Lands and Kazakhstan along with parts of the Middle East, northeastern India, Inner Mongolia, portions of North Africa and areas from Sudan and the Central African Republic to Angola all have some notable groundwater and freshwater shortages as do the mainland areas of Southeast Asia. Some of these areas have drought conditions that are ongoing while others recently have cleared out of drought status and have lingering pockets of low water supply. All of this is a part of the Russian roulette game between weather, water supply and feeding the world’s population.

What would have happened if the United States had not received significant rain in late June and early July and drought persisted through the summer at the same time that Russia’s New Lands stayed in drought along with Kazakhstan and Canada’s Prairies? India’s monsoon could have failed because of El Niño, and the same could have occurred to rice production along with sugar cane production and other crop areas like Southeast Asia. World Weather, Inc. believes the roulette wheel is still spinning and one year a food shortage crisis will develop more severely than anything imagined. The food shortage crisis could easily evolve when the right combination of drought-afflicted production areas in the world all suffer at the same time while other areas deal with water shortages restricting the ability to raise crops in arid or semi-arid areas.

Enough good weather is expected in the rest of 2023 that should help produce sufficient yields of corn, wheat, soybeans and other staples needed to feed the world. How many more times will there be a happy ending for severe drought stricken areas in the world? As the population rises and water supply shrinks, it seems that the roulette wheel will not always stop in the best place to support food production for all. World Weather, Inc. believes preparing for future droughts and food shortages resulting from adverse weather may be a better place to put the world’s finances rather than betting on a miraculous mastermind plan to change the planet’s weather for the betterment of humanity.