Robert Geiger coined the expression "The Dust Bowl" in the 1930s. This phrase described the conditions in the Midwest because of the persistent droughts that had plagued the United States

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Robert Geiger coined the expression “The Dust Bowl” in the 1930s. This phrase described the conditions in the Midwest because of the persistent droughts that had plagued the United States. The Dust Bowl was concurrent with the Great Depression. It was the greatest man-made environmental disaster in American history at that time.

The Dust Bowl, also known as the “Dirty Thirties,” included a varied array of weather conditions including blizzards, dust storms, and tornadoes. While Oklahoma and Texas were considered two of the most prosperous regions in the country at the start of 1930, there were many farming problems in that region. Wheat was an abundant crop, and farmers would plow straight furrows to plant as much wheat as possible. What the farmers did not realize was that they were doing extensive damage to the land. They quickly stripped its nutrients, and rain runoff caused erosion. With increased wheat harvests, the price of the once-scarce crop declined drastically. By 1931, farmers were not able to recoup the money they had invested to harvest their wheat crop. Many farmers faced financial disaster.

The 1930s brought massive storms to the region, including three droughts between 1934 and 1936. In the aftermath of each drought, heavy rains pelted the nation. One of these heavy storms produced five inches of water in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The flooding was followed by a dust storm that caused extensive property damage to local homes and businesses. After the winter, the drought started again. It was impossible for farmers to plant their crops at the proper time, and the crops were not fully grown at harvest. The harvest was not large enough for farmers to make a profit or to repay the loans they had taken out over the year.

The Dust Bowl received national attention in 1934. That year a tremendous dust storm blew dirt east from states such as Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas as far as Washington, D.C., and New York City. After this, the storms ceased, but record-breaking heat replaced them. The extreme weather caused many people in states such as Colorado, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma to die from heat stroke and overexposure. The Dust Bowl continued to be a plague on the region. People were isolated in their homes and business for long periods, not wanting to risk braving the storm outside.

Finally, on April 14, 1935, the weather cleared and became bright and sunny. Birds flew through the sky. It seemed that the storm had finally passed. Then a giant cloud quickly moved into the region and brought back the dust storms. This event was known as “Black Sunday.” The horrendous weather conditions continued well into 1936, as record temperatures soared and flooding rains followed. A new type of storm arrived, a “snuster.” A snuster was the combination of a dust storm and a blizzard, engulfing entire regions at a time. Dust Bowl conditions continued to the end of the 1930s, adding to the already disastrous financial conditions brought on by the Great Depression. The Dust Bowl provided a late and often disregarded lesson on the dangers of carelessly altering the land.

  1. Who coined the term “Dust Bowl”? What does it describe?

  1. What weather conditions occurred during the Dust Bowl?

  1. What was the most abundant crop grown at this time? How did farmers plant this crop?

  1. What weather condition plagued the United States between 1934 and 1936?

  1. Describe the sequence of storms during the Dust Bowl.How did the drought impair the farmers’ planting of crops?

  1. What was significant about April 14, 1935?

  1. What was a “snuster”?

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