Today reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske took a potentially mundane story about how the drought in Texas is changing the traditional cattle business and wrote her way on to the front page of the Sunday Los Angeles Times with her boldness:
The cowboys rose well before dawn, stars still high in the West Texas sky. They strapped on spurs and leather chaps and climbed into their saddles for one last roundup.
They didn't have to do much to rustle the cattle from the dusty flats about 220 miles west of Dallas. Hundreds of hungry black Angus and Herefords, tired of foraging for scarce, drought-dry grass, came running — drawn by the hope of feed.
But it's not just color. She also slips in some climate science:
Texas has suffered more than $5.2 billion in agricultural losses this year from the dry spell, including in the cattle industry. No relief is in sight and the state climatologist says this could be the start of a 10-year drought, part of changing weather patterns worldwide.
Want a little more? Here's the Texas state climatologist's thoughtful discussion of the three suspects in the most recent Texas drought: the Pacific Decadal Oscilation, the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, and "the long-term oceanic warming trend." It's very complicated, but John Neilsen-Gammon concludes:
At this point, all I can say is that we're in a period of frequent Texas drought until further notice. This period, with both the Pacific and the Atlantic working against us, might be over in a year or two, or it might last another fifteen or twenty years. it seems likely to last another decade.
Texas cattle producers can't wait. They're leasing pastureland in Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana, and shipping their cattle out of state.
Many [cattle-managers]say they plan to return at least some cows once Texas greens, but admit it could be years before the cows come home.
Kudos to the reporter, I say. Good job.