What Is The "Dust Bowl" And Why Is It Named That?

The Dust Bowl was a series of severe dust storms during an extremely dry period (or drought) in the 1930s. This happened in regions going from Texas to Nebraska in the United States. Extreme winds and dust storms came over these regions killing people, livestock, and crops.1. But why was this region nicknamed the "Dust Bowl"? The term "Dust Bowl" was used by the reporter Robert Geiger who "used it to describe the drought-affected south central United States in the aftermath of horrific dust storms".2

This is what happens when soil runs out of nitrogen.

Nitrogen loss in soil can happen in a variety of ways and is usually hard to predict. Large amounts of nitrate(N) loss occurs during the spring season with recharged subsoil moisture when soils are warm. Deciding if loss of nitrate is supplemental you must take into consideration the following: 1. Amount of nitrate present, the rate it was applied, and use of nitrification inhibitor; 2. When and length of time soil was saturated. 3. Subsoil recharge, leaching rate and amount of water moved through the soil. 4. The loss of crop from water damage.3 Decades before the drought took place, thousands of settlers were lured to the grasslands of the southern plains with the promise of rich soils and prosperous farming land.4
In the 1930's, The Dust Bowl was a name given to the Southern Plains (Texas to Nebraska) during a time of drought.5


What Caused The Dust Bowl?
Various economic and agricultural factors had a part in the dust bowl, these factors include: federal land policies, changes in weather, farm economics, a series of federal land acts, pushed settlers toward the Great Plains, and encouraged farming.6 The Homestead Act of 1862, gave these settlers 160 acres of public land. The Kinkaid Act and the Enlarged Homestead Act led to a major increase in inexperienced farmers working in the Great Plains. With nothing to hold the soil in place, the soil started to blow away. This loose dry soil led to vast dust storms and wrecked the economy of the Southern Plains.7 Over three fourths of the farmers stayed in the lands despite the dust bowls. The farming practices brought by the new settlers dramatically increased the region’s vulnerability to drought. Long periods of wet weather lead residents to misjudge the climate and they ended up plowing millions of acres of used to be grassland. The farmers used methods that only worked well in the wetter climates they were previously accustomed to. This duplicated problems and depleted the soil completely of its nutrients and further increased crop failure In 1931, a drought began the failing of crops, and creating a barren over-plowed farmland.8

Effects of the Dust Bowl.
The Dust Bowl is estimated to have immediately, substantially, and persistently reduced agricultural land values and revenues in more-eroded counties relative to less-eroded counties.9The dust bowl affected many farmers in the sense that all of their crops withered and died out. Any farmer that had originally plowed under the native prairie grass which held soil in place saw an abnormal amount of topsoil.10 In the Southern area, livestock went blind and suffocated. Once the dust entered their respiratory system, it was almost impossible to get it out. People also suffered too. Civilians were basically forced to wear respiratory masks handed out by Red Cross workers. They also had to clean their houses each morning with shovels and brooms while also having to drape wet sheets over doors and windows to help filter out dust.11 One fun fact is that the term "Okies" is from people from Okahoma who migrated to California. They were used as nicknames to make fun of the people migrating. They would use "No Okies and dogs allowed inside."12

Long Term Effects of the Dust Bowl.

Just as stated before, the Dust Bowl worsened America's economic state during the late 1920s. A mass exodus also occurred within the Great Plains Area, and it is estimated that between 500,000 - 3.5 million people left the American Midwest during this period, primarily to the Western United States.13 Places like California and other West Coast states were filled with migrants from Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and many other states within the Midwest. Massive caravans and cars loaded with family belongings scurried away from their homesteads, trying to find jobs, food, anything they could do to make a living.14 This and the effects of the Great Depression caused American president Franklin D. Roosevelt to form a 'New Deal' which was enacted in the early 1930s to curb the effects of the two disasters. The first and the second of the New Deals helped the American economy and people pull out of this dark time in our history, but the Dust Bowl showed Americans and the world the harsh effects of over-farming and nitrogen loss.15