Whiplash is having impacts on water quality in the midwestern U.S., affecting both humans and the natural world. One study showed that the nitrogen fertilizers farmers applied to their crops during and after planting stayed in the soil through a drought year. Under more average precipitation scenarios, the nitrogen would be flushed out of the soil during the growing year. When a deluge hits — as it did in 2012-2013 — the nitrogen is flushed out of the fields all at once, and the result is a spike in nitrogen levels in rivers and streams that pollutes drinking water and causes algae to grow, harming fish and other aquatic organisms.
“The problem is that our current practices are interacting with changing weather and climate in unexpected ways, yielding more frequent and severe consequences,” said Adam Ward, a hydrologist at Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a co-author of the study.
Additional coverage from Mother Jones