By the numbers: Today’s drought vs. the Dust Bowl era

Published 6:56 AM EDT, Sat September 15, 2012

Story highlights

The Dust Bowl lasted for 8 years, causing millions to leave their homes

An estimated 20 million hectares of farmland were ineffective annually

The current drought is affecting all but a handful of American states

4 billion fewer bushels of corn will be produced this year than once expected

(CNN) —  

The impact of the drought currently gripping the United States is real and tangible, as millions can attest. But the depth of the pain still falls short of that experienced by many in the Great Plains and beyond during the so-called Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.

Here is a look – by the numbers – comparing what happened then and what’s happening now, both times due to pervasive and historic droughts.

The Dust Bowl days

8: The years of the general duration of the so-called Dust Bowl era, from 1931 to 1939

3.5 million: People who left their homes in the Great Plains and beyond due to drought

250,000: Families who lost their farms and ranches to bank foreclosures

60 mph: Speed of winds pushing a huge dust cloud on April 13, 1935, through Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and beyond – causing hundreds of deaths – during what is called “Black Sunday”

5: The string of years in the 1930s of the warmest temperatures ever recorded until recently in Amarillo, Texas

74: The degrees of temperature drop in an 18-hour span in Boise City, Oklahoma, in February 1933, as Dust Bowl winters were often bitterly cold

20 million: Hectares of range and farmland ruined annually during the Dust Bowl era

13: The number of camps, consisting of about 300 families each, set up by the Farm Security Administration for Dust Bowl migrants escaping the hardest hit areas

The current drought

40: Number of the 50 states with drought-designated counties as determined by the federal government, making them eligible for emergency aid

63%: Amount of the contiguous U.S. experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions

33%: Amount of the contiguous U.S. in such straits last year, indicating 30% more of the country now faces such conditions

#1: The historic rank for July 2012, nationally, in temperature, making it the hottest July since records were first kept in 1895

123.4: The bushels of corn per acre predicted by the USDA, the lowest yield since 1995

4 billion: The number of fewer bushels of U.S. corn likely to be produced, compared to what was forecast at the beginning of the year

80%: The amount of U.S. agricultural land being affected by the current drought

65%: The level of U.S. cattle production being affected by the current drought

Sources: Library of Congress, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Climatic Data Center, U.S. Drought Monitor