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Old 07-23-2011, 07:44 AM   #1
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The production of corn is contributing to the high humidity

Not sure if this is the proper board to post this, but I thought it was interesting!

Taken from the Weather Channel's website-


The Corn Belt: Where Humidity Becomes Unbearable
by Tim Ballisty, Editorial Meteorologist




Updated: July 13, 2011 5:30 pm ET

There's a "dry" heat and there's the "triple-H" heat - Hazy, Hot and Humid.

In the desert, temperatures can easily climb into the 100s day in and day out however humidity levels stay quite low. Comfortable? Depends on who you ask. Yes it's hot outside but low humidity means that the body's cooling mechanism - sweating - is fully functional.

Learn: How does perspiration cool us down?

Meanwhile, outside of the desert climate, many of us are well aware of the uncomfortable combo of high heat and high humidity. Our body cooling system breaks down. We sweat and we sweat some more. However, with the ambient air at near saturation the sweat that builds on our skin does not evaporate. Our internal body temperature rises.

But then there is a level of humidity that surpasses the uncomfortable level and soars into the absolutely unbearable category. That type of humidity can be found each summer in the Corn Belt of the United States.

Why the Corn Belt? One word. One 7-syllable word. Evapotranspiration.

Transpiration Plus Evaporation

Evapotranspiration is the total amount of water that is transferred from the earth's surface to the atmosphere. It is made up of the evaporation of free water surfaces (lakes, rivers, soil moisture, etc.) plus the transpiration from plants.

We are all familiar with evaporation but transpiration...not so much. It's actually fairly similar to the act of sweating but instead of humans, we are dealing with plants and vegetation. Water within a plant changes to water vapor and released into the atmosphere.

Fact: 10 percent of the moisture found in the atmosphere is released by plants through transpiration. (Source: USGS)
United States Corn Belt


The United States Corn Belt is a region in the Midwest where corn is the chief harvested crop. The USDA map shows that the belt includes the states of South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

Evaporation of water from soil with high moisture content (due to passing thunderstorm complexes) and the transpiration of water from tens of thousands of acres of a mature corn crop contribute to an atmosphere that is sopping wet.

When high pressure and consequently high heat builds over the Corn Belt region during the summer months, humidity levels simply go through the roof thanks to evapotranspiration. Dew point temperatures easily reach the 80s routinely. Suffice to say, a dew point value of 80 or higher is oppressive.

Let's put it this way. An air temperature of 90 degrees and a dew point of 65 degrees makes it feel like it is 92 degrees. Not bad actually. But an air temperature of 90 degrees combined with a dew point of 82 degrees makes it feel like it is 111 degrees. That's a "feels like" temperature difference of nearly 20 degrees!

Moreover, evapotranspiration is the gift that keeps on giving too. The high dew point values that evapotranspiration helps to produce are also one of the ingredients that fuels the development of thunderstorms. Those thunderstorms then go on to produce very heavy rainfall which consequently creates high soil moisture content and lush vegetation. The cycle repeats.
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Old 07-23-2011, 01:58 PM   #2
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And here I expected to read something about corn feed causing cow flatulence and high levels of global warming gases...... I'm so glad it was a far more scientific explanation... What an interesting read, thanks!

What can I say, my brain goes on vacation on the weekends sometimes....
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Old 07-23-2011, 02:52 PM   #3
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Haha.. I first heard about it on the evening news while they were reporting on the record high temps. They said something like "And you won't believe what could be contributing to it... corn!" My ears perked up and right away I thought "hmm.. yeah I can believe it.." Hehe!
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Old 07-23-2011, 03:13 PM   #4
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Except that we don't have many more acres planted to corn production in this year/decade than we have for the last half century. We can produce a great deal more corn kernels now than before because we have bred corn that produces more ears and larger ears, but the plants themselves are still spaced about the same distance apart, the rows about the same distance apart, and the acres under tillage still about the same as in the past decades.

Makes for a fun article for the city folks anyway, I guess.
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Old 07-23-2011, 03:32 PM   #5
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I'm not a city folk, but I still think it's interesting
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