the dust bowl

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Gabrielle Payne
Ms. Molise
10/10/13
Causes of the Dustbowl
In the year 1930 America’s economy was in a state of depression. The last thing America needed at this time was a catastrophic event to destroy the economy even more, but that is exactly what they got. The “Dust Bowl” drought is one of the worst climatic events in the history of the United States drought which devastated the United States central states region known as the Great Plains. The Dust Bowl worsened the already depressed American economy in the 1930's, causing millions of dollars in damages. What caused this catastrophic event that put the central states in such a state of poverty? You cannot understand the Dust Bowl without understanding the ecology of The Great Plains. The plains are wavelike, gently sloping down from the Rocky Mountains towards the East. The Great Plains have not always been as dry as they are today. In fact it is believed that the plains formed from a shallow inland sea. They believe this because they have found fossils of sea shells and fish. The small slope is caused by the buildup of soil and stones washed down from the Rockies. There are trees, mostly cottonwoods, which grow along the river banks in the Great Plains. The Great Plains has extreme, violent weather. The weather can change from heavenly to hell like weather in just one moment. Since there are no trees to block the wind, the wind blows continuously. At times the wind can blow up to 100 miles per hour. Depending on the season, the wind brings burning up heat that you do not get relief from for days, even at night. This heat puts the people who live in The Great Plains in agony. The heat dries up streams, animals die of thirst, and plants shrivel up quickly. (Albert Marrin) With this already cruel weather the last thing that the people of The Great Plains needed was a shattering event like the Dust Bowl. During early European and American exploration of the Great Plains they thought that the land was unsuitable for farming. The region was known as the Great American Desert. The lack of surface water and timber made the region less attractive than other areas for pioneer settlement and agriculture. Since very few people wanted to farm there, settlement was encouraged by the Homestead Act of 1862. In Years of the Dust it tells us that “In 1862 “ […] “Congress passed the Homestead Act” […] “This law offered 160 acres of land to any citizen…” (Marrin) The Homestead Act was a great thing for many farmers. In the book, The Dust Bowl, it is said that “America has always been a land of opportunity, and the opportunity was never greater than in 1862 when the United States passed the Homestead Act.” (Sandler) With the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, numerous amounts of new immigrants arrived in the Great Plains, and cultivation increased. This caused over 11.3 million acres of land to be plowed in a very short amount of time. Then, during the 1920s, an unusual wet period in the Great Plains led settlers and the federal government to mistakenly believe that "rain follows the plow". This phrase was quite common in the 1930s. This phrase caused the farmers to believe that the climate of this region had changed permanently. (Schubert) Before the Dust Bowl began, more than 5 million acres of new farmland had been plowed, although not all of it had been used. As a decade of rains on the Great Plains ended, a long drought began, lasting throughout the 1930s. (Capital Journal) During the decade long drought, they thought that all they needed is rain. Caroline Henderson, A survivor of the dust bowl confesses “”We dream of faint gurgling sound of dry soil sucking in the grateful moisture, but we wake another day of wind and dust hopes deferred.”” (Sandler) The Dust Bowl was caused by a horrendous decade-long drought and because of the favored agricultural method. The drought affected almost two-thirds of the...