The Dust Bowl
The Dust Bowl is a term which was coined by a journalist during the “Dirty Thirties”. This term was used in reference to the resultant areas where several dust storms occurred in America during the 1930s. Areas affected by these dust storms included: Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico. In addition to the dust storms, the “dust bowl” areas were characterized by drought.
The dust storms were very severe in some cases such as the “Black Sunday” which occurred in Boise City, Oklahoma in April 14th 1935 where dust blizzards engulfed the entire state. There were times that such blizzards would cloud the dust bowl to the extent that one could not see anything or anyone within a meter. Sometimes the strong winds would blow the dust as far as New York, Washington DC and even Chicago.
Major causes of the Dust Bowl
There are many factors that have been attributed to the causes of the dust storms, blizzards and the drought. Originally, the Great Plains areas where all these states lie in were not cultivated. This is because they were mostly semi arid and experienced minimal rainfall. This changed after the end of the Civil War when these areas experienced high precipitations and many immigrants settled down there. Some people have stated that the large numbers of settlers led to the degradation of the land around these areas.
In addition to the settlement, there were many farming machinery that were invented during the 1920s and 1930s. These included combined harvesters and gasoline tractors which were used to till the land in the Great Plains. This mechanization of farming methods led to total destruction of grass around these areas. The grass initially helped to retain moisture in the ground and also hold the soil in place. Destruction of these grass roots made the soil very weak and susceptible to the strong winds and dust storms.
The Russian Revolution and the First World War also had a great impact on agriculture within these areas. This is because during the revolution and the war, there was increased demand for food stuffs and agricultural products. This in turn led to massive cultivation of the land in order to produce enough for the rising markets. As a result, the land was over-cultivated and this led to high levels of soil erosion.
Poor farming methods used in the 1930s have also been cited as some of the main contributors to the dust bowl. Most cotton farmers for instance would leave the land bare during the winter. They would then burn the stubs before tilling the land so as to prevent weeds from growing once the cotton was planted. These processes generally curbed the grass from growing and hence destroyed the soil.
All the above reasons contributed to major soil erosion in the Dust Bowl and all the areas around the plains. This is why the dust storms blew away all the rich top soil and eventually nothing could grow in the area. Subsequently, nothing could grow on the land. This ultimately led to the drought that devastated the entire region.
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