Wednesday, July 8, 2020
US flag

Corn sweat at the center of summer heat

The Economic Research Service at the US Department of Agriculture reports that more than 94 million acres of corn have been planted in the US this year. With the exception of 2012 and 2013, that’s the greatest acreage of corn in US soil since World War I.

USDA ERS corn planted in the US, 1982-2016
Corn planted in US soil (Source: USDA ERS)

With more corn growing, the plants cause moisture to evaporate from the ground and get swept to places like Chicago, where the humidity soars due to the increased moisture levels in the air. The moisture is technically called evapotranspiration, defined by the American Meteorological Society as “the total amount of water transferred from the earth to the atmosphere.”

Corn Planted in the US and Yield

Year Million Acres Planted Yield (Bu/acre)
1982/83 81.857 113.2
1983/84 60.207 81.1
1984/85 80.517 106.7
1985/86 83.398 118
1986/87 76.58 119.4
1987/88 66.2 119.8
1988/89 67.717 84.6
1989/90 72.322 116.3
1990/91 74.166 118.5
1991/92 75.957 108.6
1992/93 79.311 131.5
1993/94 73.239 100.7
1994/95 78.921 138.6
1995/96 71.479 113.5
1996/97 79.229 127.1
1997/98 79.537 126.7
1998/99 80.165 134.4
1999/00 77.386 133.8
2000/01 79.551 136.9
2001/02 75.702 138.2
2002/03 78.894 129.3
2003/04 78.603 142.2
2004/05 80.929 160.3
2005/06 81.779 147.9
2006/07 78.327 149.1
2007/08 93.527 150.7
2008/09 85.982 153.3
2009/10 86.382 164.4
2010/11 88.192 152.6
2011/12 91.936 146.8
2012/13 97.291 123.1
2013/14 95.365 158.1
2014/15 90.597 171
2015/16 87.999 168.438
2016/17 94.148 167.9954

Twitter has a new name for the added moisture, though: corn sweat.

And although I know most of the moisture in the air over Chicago this week came from the Gulf of Mexico, a not-so-small part of it originated in the cornfields of the Midwest. So stay cool out there in the dome of heat.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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