Every now and then you come across a nugget that makes you shake your head in wonder. This is one of those head-scratching, jaw-dropping moments.
Corn releases vast amounts of water at night, it adds additional moisture to the lowest levels of the atmosphere. So what? On a blazing-hot day like much of the Midwest experienced last week (highs in the 90s and low 100s) all this additional water can make the heat index in the Corn Belt, how it actually feels, much higher.
A recent tweet from Midwestern-born meteorologist Jacqui Jeras at The Weather Channel caught my eye:
The process is known as "evapotranspiration", which is a mouthful, but it basically means that corn releases water during the nighttime hours. The University of Illinois says: Evapotranspiration is when water is taken up by corn plants, water vapor - the gas form of water - is released into the atmosphere from the leaves while evaporation occurs from the soil, which also adds water vapor to the air."
Last week dew points in the Corn Belt were significantly higher than surrounding areas, even higher than the Gulf of Mexico, the source of moisture-rich air year-round. A dew point in the mid-80s (which is something you might find in Iran - in the extreme danger zone) made it feel like 125 degrees in some Iowa communities last Friday, July 28! This isn't the first time I've seen this, but it was one of the more amazing examples of how farming can impact the local environment. All thanks to evapotranspiration.
Transpiration and evapotranspiration result from a man-made sea of corn, making it feel more humid on a hot, sweaty day, and adding more moisture to thunderstorms, even - theoretically - making it rain harder and longer in and near the corn belt during the summer.
Don't get me wrong: I love sweet corn. I am definitely pro-corn and I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of farmers who take risks every year with uncertain returns. But actions have consequences and planting (and irrigating) a big swath of the Midwest is in fact adding more water to the hydrologic cycle.
You can win a little money with this. Ask a friend if corn sweats. Chances are they'll look at you funny and say no.
It will feel good getting the last laugh!