An Invisible Boundary In The USA Is Moving, Which Is Very Bad News

This could be bad news for crop farmers. Maxym/

There is an invisible boundary that divides the United States in two. To the east, you find verdant prairies and lush grasslands, but go west and you have a much more arid and drier environment of cacti and yucca.

Known as the 100th meridian, it slices down from Canada, through the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and was first noted as a climatic curiosity in the 1800s by explorer and geologist John Wesley Powell.


But two new studies published in the journal Earth Interactions have found that while Powell was right in his observations of this line, the boundary has since shifted 225 kilometers (140 miles) to the east. This, it probably goes without saying, is most likely due to climate change, as the grasslands of the east start to dry up.

The line exists in the first place due to a combination of the Rocky Mountains and basically just how massive the United States is. The mountains running down the west coast block the moist air coming off the Pacific Ocean from going much further, while the moisture coming off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico can only sweep so far inland, resulting in the boundary.

The 100th meridian is a line that divides east from west. Seager et al. 2018

Using a whole mix of data from climate models, regional vegetation maps, weather station data, and the US Department of Agriculture data, the researchers were able to track the 100th meridian's steady but inexorable march eastwards. The most likely culprits are the weakening of rain moving into the Midwest, something that has been exasperated by human-induced climate change.

This will mean that for those living along the boundary, they might well end up having to adjust to these environmental changes. It will mean that cattle farmers could expect a boom, while those who are growing crops might well suffer. For some, it might mean having to give up agriculture altogether.


Basically, there are only two things that can be done right now. Either the farmers directly east of the line who will be most affected by the climate shift change their practices or we actually get serious about tackling climate change. I think we can probably guess what is going to be the most likely course of action there. 


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